Bill Would Require Motorists to Switch Lanes to Pass Cyclists

Published: Feb. 17, 2016 at 10:32 PM CST
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A bill in the Legislature would require drivers in Iowa to change lanes before passing bicyclists on the road. The bill has passed a Senate transportation committee ahead of the funnel deadline this Friday. The bill would require drivers to follow the same rules as passing other vehicles.

They would have to wait until it's safe to pass and then move into an adjacent lane. But motorists would not be required to change lanes when a cyclist is using a bike lane. Supporters of the bill say as more and more people are using bicycles as a means of transportation and not just recreation, more clear-cut laws are needed to keep them safe.

About a year ago, Matt Phippen of Vinton captured video of a white pickup truck passing him closely, even when Phippen said the driver had plenty of time and space to get over into the next lane of traffic. He took the driver of the truck to court, but lost the case. Phippen and some Iowa lawmakers hope this bill will send a message that if there's room to safely pass a cyclist using the next lane, use it.

"What this is really getting at, is vehicles that maybe do not understand that a cyclist has a right to the full lane, even though they're riding to the right-hand side close to the shoulder," said state Sen. Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo). Dotzler said bikers still need to ride cautiously and responsibly, even though they're within their right to use a full lane. "Even if you're right, you could be dead right."

Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, said this would cement existing rules and guidelines as an enforceable law. The DOT has actually adopted this in their drivers manual. It says change lanes, like you would any other vehicle, change lanes to pass a bicycle. So this isn't anything new," Wyatt explained. "We want this to prevent fatal crashes. We don't want to increase complaints. We want to make sure people people are safe, and that's the big goal."