Fatal bicycle crashes brings renewed call for state law


May 25th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, Mark Wyatt, is renewing his call for a new state law that would require motorists maintain a distance of three feet between their vehicle and a bicycle they’re passing on the road.”We had two fatal crashes over this past week where a bicyclist was hit from behind while the motor vehicle was passing,” Wyatt said. “I think that provides an opportunity to reinforce that we really need this education out there and to let people know that at least three feet is a safe passing distance.” Initial report indicate the two bicyclists who were killed last weekend were both operating lawfully. A 37-year old man was struck from behind on a rural Clayton County road and a 67-year old man was killed in a hit-and-run crash in rural Dallas County. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition has pushed for the three-foot passing distance law over the past four years.

Critics of the proposal have said the safe passing of a bicyclist should be common sense and it shouldn’t have to be written as a law. Wyatt agrees it should be common sense, but he believes reminding motorists with a three-foot passing law could help save lives. “This is a number that can be taught in driver’s education. This is something that can be on the driver’s ed exam and included in the driver’s ed manual,” Wyatt said. “I think there’s an education component, along with that common sense component, that we should be giving bicyclists some space.”

Other states have enacted the three-foot passing law and Wyatt said it’s time for Iowa to follow suit. “Approximately half of the states have passed something, including our neighboring states of Nebraska and Minnesota,” Wyatt said. “Wisconsin has had it on the books since 1973.” The League of American Bicyclists recently issued their annual ranking of states according to “bicycle friendliness” and Iowa dropped from 6th to 16th on the list. Wyatt said Iowa’s failure to approve a three-foot passing law contributed to the state’s fall in the rankings.

(Pat Curtis/Radio Iowa)