Iowa Bicycle Coalition puts 3-foot passing law at top of priorities following fatal bike crashes.

A pair of fatal bicycle crashes and a drop in the Bicycle Friendly State ranking has prompted the Iowa Bicycle Coalition to renew efforts on a 3-foot passing distance law. The League of American Bicyclists issued the annual ranking of states according to bicycle friendliness and Iowa drops 10 places to number 16 on the Bicycle Friendly State list. The ranking, along with a pair of weekend bicycle fatalities, has prompted the Iowa Bicycle Coalition to focus on state laws and policies that could improve safety and reduce bicycle crashes.

Two bicyclists have been killed on Iowa roadways in 2012. Both during the same weekend in different parts of the state. A 37-year old man was struck from behind in a rural Clayton County crash. A 67-year old man was killed in a hit-and-run crash in rural Dallas County. Initial reports indicate both cyclists were operating lawfully.

“This isn’t about an ranking,” states Mark Wyatt, executive director. “This is about saving lives and reducing injuries. Motor vehicle fatality rates have been in decline, but bicycle fatalities have remained the same over the past decade. We should be working to reduce the bicycle crash rates in Iowa.”

A key issue for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition is the 3-foot passing distance law which has been proposed in the Iowa Legislature over the past four years. Nearly half of US states have adopted a 3 foot passing distance law. The law recently passed in Nebraska and has been a law in Wisconsin since 1973.

One of the criticisms of the law is safe passing of a bicyclist is common sense that shouldn’t have to be written as law. Wyatt disagrees. “Many of our laws are common sense, like stopping at stop signs or driving on the right side of the road. We continue to have bicyclists hit from behind. It is time for a minimum passing distance law to prevent fatal crashes.”

Proponents, like the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, point out how a 3-foot passing distance law would likely be taught in driver’s education, included in the driver’s manual, and a question on the driver’s examination.

The Bicycle Friendly State ranking is not solely based on a 3-foot passing distance law passage. Wyatt states “Many of the other issues cited in the annual report are in the proccess of being addressed with the Iowa DOT. Other states have been have been working hard to increase their rankings. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition is continuing to fight for safer bicycling and bring Iowa back to one of the top states for bicycling.”