Justice for Ellen Bengtson

“In shock” captures it doesn’t it? That paralyzing feeling, sickening, frantic like you can’t believe what reality is presenting to you. We all felt in shock hearing that charges were being dropped against the driver who struck and killed Ellen Bengtson. There’s no justice in that.

We can’t change what happened, and we won’t find justice in the courts, but there is something we can do. We’ve been trying to do it for a long time. We can pass the law to require hands-free phone use while driving and close the loophole that let a distracted driver kill a cyclist and face no legal consequences. You can make the difference in getting hands-free law passed by helping with any of these four things:

1. Set up a meeting with your legislator.

2. Send your legislator a message about supporting hands-free cell phones while driving

3. Help make a donation to expand the Iowa Bicycle Coalition (Donations matched up to $35k).  

4. Start a fundraiser for the Big Bike Give on May 24.  

We spend $20,000 lobbying each year and a lot of staff time. We could get more done if we had more resources (additional advocacy staff, communications, regional meetings), but that will cost more money.

We can keep lobbying legislators, eventually we’ll get there. But what about those killed in the time between now and “eventually”? We could be doing so much more if we had the right resources, people who were talking to their representatives, and the grassroots support to give bicyclists the influence needed to make the changes required. Those things all start with you.

The question becomes how bad do you want it? Why not push hard now, reap the benefits sooner, and start saving lives?

We can feel shocked and sickened and helpless, but the reality is there are things to do today to make sure this never happens again. Fixing the problem won’t bring justice, but it is the right thing to do for Ellen Bengtson and the others like her, cyclists who love riding in Iowa.

The best thing you could possibly do right now is to get a meeting scheduled with your legislator to talk to them about a law requiring hands-free phone usage, what that could do to protect everyone on the road, and how not passing it has led to injustice for Ellen Bengtson. 

Meeting a legislator is not hard to do, and we’ve created a form that will send your request to the right person. Very few people actually meet with their legislators, and those who do have a much higher rate of success in influencing the outcome of votes. If you get a meeting scheduled we can help you know what to say. But it starts here. Please, ask to meet your legislator today.

1. Set up a meeting with your legislator. This is the easiest and most effective way to get this bill passed.  Your legislator needs to hear from you that this is a priority.  

2. Send your legislator a message about supporting hands-free cell phones while driving

 If you aren’t willing to meet with a legislator on this issue, the next best thing to do is contact them with an email or phone call. https://iowabicyclecoalition.org/prohibit-handheld-cellphone-use-while-driving/

3. Help make a donation to expand the Iowa Bicycle Coalition (Donations matched up to $35k). We need funding to pass this legislation by hiring additional advocacy staff, communications, and more. https://ibc.app.neoncrm.com/forms/end-distracted-driving

4. Start a fundraiser for the Big Bike Give on May 24.  Tell this story to your friends, your family, your coworkers, and ask them to help you end distracted driving and close these unacceptable loopholes. https://www.bigbikegive.org/organizations/iowa-bicycle-coalition

Thank you for standing up for bicyclists. Let’s work together to ensure the injustice carried out on Ellen Bengtson never happens again.

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