116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - A bill seeking to require bicycle operators to have a light mounted on the rear of their bikes when riding on roadways in Iowa between sunset and sunrise could become a vehicle for a much-broader legislative discussion of highway safety issues.
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said he filed Senate File 241 in response to the concerns of a constituent who was involved in an accident when the motorcycle he was operating came upon three bike rides traveling abreast in the same highway lane but without lights. He did not see them until he had to put his cycle on its side and slide into the other riders.
Current Iowa law provides that a bicycle shall have a front lighted lamp and either a rear lighted lamp or a rear reflector during nighttime operating hours or when conditions, such as fog, snow sleet or rain, provide insufficient lighting to clearly discern people and vehicles on a highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.
Johnson wants Iowa to adopt a law similar to Florida that requires a rear bicycle light rather than making it optional with a rear reflector. A violation of the new requirement would result in a scheduled fine of $25.
The bill passed a Senate subcommittee Wednesday over concerns by bicycle enthusiasts and others that the bill lacked any illumination standard which also has not been established by manufacturers. Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Coralville-based Iowa Bicycle Coalition, also noted the change could pose a problem for events like RAGBRAI which attract out-of-state riders to Iowa who do not have rear lighted lamps.
Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, the subcommittee's chairman, said he liked a suggestion that the bill be amended to allow a bicyclist cited for a violation to be given 72 hours to remedy the infraction, similar to a grace period given motorists cited for a faulty headlight or taillight.
Subcommittee members said they wanted to improve safety for bicycle riders and advanced the bill so more work could be done on it, but leaders of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and legislators who are bike enthusiasts said they would like to expand the measure to address other safety concerns such as requiring cars to leave a 3- to 5-foot clearance when passing a moving bicycle and allowing bike riders to use their right arms to signal a right turn.
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said hundreds of bicyclists are injured on roadways around Iowa annually and nearly 20 riders have been killed in accidents with moving vehicles in the last five years.
'Safety is a huge issue for cyclists. I think this bill provides an opportunity for us to have a conversation about how we can all share the road safely,” Bolkcom said. 'If we're going to have discussion, we ought to bring those issues forward for a more comprehensive approach to bicycle and car safety.”
Johnson said that would be a major expansion that would kill the bill.
'If that happens, it will never pass the Senate,” said Johnson, noting that would generate opposition from both sides of the political aisle as it has in past sessions. 'We've been down that road before.”