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Sen. Omdahl: Rural Roads Belong to Semis, Not Bicycles

Among the good things to come out of the Legislature is House Bill 1030, which specifies that motor vehicles shall give bicycles a three-foot gap when passing on roads where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less and a six-foot gap on higher-speed roads. Since the Governor signed the bill last week Wednesday, HB 1030 takes effect on July 1… but motoring neighbors, feel free to practice those passing gaps now.

Senator Dave Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls)
Come on, Senator Omdahl! Get on your bike and ride!

HB 1030 did not get to the Governor’s desk without one nasty bit of anti-bikery in the Senate. Senator David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls) tried to amend the bill to  exempt all rural roads from the bicycle-passing requirements. Senator Omdahl wouldn’t have gotten rid of the safe passing gap completely. His amendment proposed to allow counties to designate certain sufficiently wide rural roads for bicycle travel where the passing-gap requirement would apply. One would assume from Senator Omdahl’s speech supporting his amendment that “sufficiently wide” would mean a driving lane that can accommodate an eight-foot-wide semi, a six-foot-wide passing gap, and maybe a couple feet for a bicycle—at least sixteen feet total. Given that Senator Omdahl said the standard lane width on county roads is twelve feet, it would appear his intent was to restrict bicycle designations to only the widest, thus likely busiest rural roads.

I can’t figure out why Senator Omdahl and other conservatives express such antagonism to bicycles. Perhaps more than anyone else on the highway, cyclists embody rugged individualism and self-reliance. They’re not just playing games; they’re getting to work and church and Hy-Vee under their own power. What could be more conservative than that?

As is so often the case in the United States of Koch, conservatism is a mere front for corporate interests and the almighty dollar. Senator Omdahl said he brought the amendment “to protect both the cyclists and the traveling public” (which phrase suggests Omdahl does not consider cyclists part of the traveling public), but his speech to the amendment suggests the primary purpose of the amendment was to allow semis to get from point A to point B without having to wait for pesky bicycles.

The MinusCar Project heard Senator Omdahl’s amendment as an effort to ban bicycles from most rural roads. The amendment didn’t seem to make that explicit, but Senator Omdahl hinted that’s the ultimate impact he wanted his amendment to have. He told the Senate the signs his amendment would require counties to put up on designated bicycle routes would “give the cyclist notice of where he can ride and of where he probably shouldn’t ride.”

Fortunately, MinusCar and I didn’t have to jump all over Senator Omdahl. Our cycling and safety-conscious  senators did. Senators Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City), Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison), and Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) all opposed the amendment with a firm defense of bicyclists’ equal right to the road. Senator Tieszen said the purpose of HB 1030 is not the paycheck of the truck driver but the safety of bicyclists. Senator Tieszen and Senator Parsley agreed that semis have to slow down and wait to pass bicyclists just as they must wait for tractors or other slow vehicles. Senator Vehle said that in his bicycling, he doesn’t really encounter problems with truck drivers: as professional drivers, they slow down and give him plenty of room when he’s on two wheels.

Senator Omdahl accused Senator Vehle of “going down a bunny trail,” but the majority hopped to Vehle’s side, rejected Omdahl’s anti-bicycle amendment, and approved the passing gaps.

Senator Omdahl and six other Senate Republicans voted against HB 1030. MinusCar recommends his fellow cyclists not to give Omdahl a pass:

Riders may not like politics. But acts of legislatures do not happen in a vacuum.

Whose job is it to keep a senator with an amendment and a silver tongue from banning cycling on roads throughout the state? [Michael Christensen, “HB 1030 – Yesterday’s Failed Amendment…and The Future of SD Bicycling,” The MinusCar Project, 2015.03.04].

Senator Omdahl seems to want to take our wheels. District 11 cyclists, you need to take Omdahl’s seat.


  1. larry kurtz 2015-03-16 19:14

    Uh, people who ride road bikes tend to be entitled jerks while mountain bikers are more laid back and courteous. Farm equipment using public roadways should be paying fees to counties and townships. People who can afford Campagnolo should pay to use the freaking road. Sheridan Lake Road, Nemo Road, Neck Yoke, Skyline Drive, Rimrock, north Deadwood Avenue: all horrible places for car/bicycle interactions. For someone who has lost a loved one to a car/bicycle collision it’s hard to condone bikes on some highways.

  2. grudznick 2015-03-16 19:36

    Mr. kurtz is right. Righter than all get out. Put stickers on those tractors and keep the entitled jerks off our roads.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-16 20:03

    We are all entitled to access our county roads. We are all entitled to the attention of other motorists. The more metal you drive, the more responsibility you have. These aren’t difficult or un-American principles.

  4. larry kurtz 2015-03-16 20:20

    Cory: the ditches, maybe, since the precedent of hay harvested in a county right of way is part of state law; but until bicycles pay taxes, your opinion is just that.

  5. Roger Elgersma 2015-03-16 20:20

    Omdahl said lane width of twelve feet, not road width of twelve feet. This implies a very narrow road when I have never seen a road of twelve feet unless it was an unmaintained dirt road. And then there is plenty of grass to ride on. There are many more tractors, real wide ones on those roads that semis. Everyone who grew up on a township road as I did know that you adjust to whatever comes along. As a kid with a bike I would pull off on the shoulder if necessary. Any road has room for a two foot bike and three feet plus the width of the oncoming vehicle or else two cars could not meet. Because a car is wider than the five feet of a bike plus three feet.

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-16 21:18

    Omdal looks cute in that helmet. Nice work Cory.

  7. Les 2015-03-16 21:32

    We have a move over law in SD. Apparently it doesn’t apply to foot traffic or bicyclists.
    And yes, Lar, they upset me when they ride abreast on a public road. That’s just nasty.

  8. Sam@ 2015-03-16 23:12

    This is a stupid bill. It is a sad state of affairs that we must give 6 foot of a 12 foot lane to a bicycle that is 3 inches wide. The roads are for motorized transportation not for recreational use. We have bike trails no reason for these self entitled jerks to be able to have 50 percent of the road in many cases. Will not not lower the accident rate since most accidents the biker was not seen

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-16 23:44

    Sam, I’ll tell that to the people who ride their bikes to work all winter long because they can’t afford a car, but they are determined to work. The “self entitled jerks.”

  10. Lynn 2015-03-16 23:44


    Have you ever ridden a road bike? Some of those road cyclists can average 21-25 mph with reaching speeds of approaching 30mph in a pack of riders on flat land. You don’t want road cyclists going on bike trails unless they are just going at a very slow pace. Otherwise it’s just too dangerous to the other people using those trails.

    When road cyclists ride on roads they are supposed to be going to the far right as possible for safety. Keep in mind that cyclists have to watch for road debris that can puncture a tire when keeping to the far right as possible as a courtesy also.

    If there is auto traffic on the road those cyclists should be riding single file not in an echelon or doubled up. They should not be blowing thru stop signs or stop lights either. Again safety and courtesy goes both ways.

    Lastly there are a few “self entitled jerks” that ride road bikes but they are a minority just like anything else in life. There are jerks that ride mountain bikes that ride when they should not on wet trails which tear them up and cause erosion or litter but luckily they are a minority compared to the good stewards and volunteers that maintain trails and riders that are good ambassadors. Just like people that drive cars and those driving these big legally overloaded trucks that are the one’s really to blame for tearing up our roads. The vast majority are good people with a minority of “self entitled jerks” everywhere.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-16 23:50

    Lynn, it’s just about midnight here and time for me to go to bed. Maybe I’ll join all the other “self entitled jerks” on our second hand bikes and ride to work in the morning.

  12. Lynn 2015-03-16 23:56


    2nd hand bikes are the best way to go and are by fat the best buys. Kudos to those that ride to work and or use public transportation loading their bikes on the bus or train as I did when I lived in the cities.

  13. Lynn 2015-03-16 23:56

    “used bikes by far the best way to go value wise”

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-17 07:17

    Sam, my bike and I are more than three inches wide. My riding is far more than recreational; over the past month, I’ve put more practical miles on my bike (going to work, getting groceries, running errands) than recreational miles.

    But, Sam, if roads are for motorized transportation and not for recreational use, are you proposing a ban on RVs and vacation travelers?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-17 07:21

    Thank you, Lynn, for highlighting the no-man’s land in which road bikes sometimes find themselves. I love bike trails, but I realizing when I’m hard-charging, I should not be on that path (and definitely not on the sidewalk) along with walkers and more relaxed riders.

    The rules of the trail are simple: More wheels yield to fewer wheels… and everyone yields to horses. :-)8

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-17 07:38

    Meanwhile, back in town, multiple studies show that bicyclists spend as much or more than shoppers who come by car. Replace on-street parking with dedicated bike lanes, and you may actually increase sales tax revenues.

    In other words, Senator Omdahl (along with, apparently, Sam) is against economic development. :-)

  17. Lynn 2015-03-17 07:55

    13 reasons to ride your bike to work by Business Insider which includes higher worker productivity, less sick days which is less of a burden to our healthcare system and other reasons provided in the link

    There are a number of businesses that provide showers at work for those who commute to work. The costs of installing those showers and bike storage were easily recouped in productivity being higher more consistent energy levels, increased ability to deal with stress and decreased health care costs

  18. Lynn 2015-03-17 07:59

    Adding to riding a bike to work your less likely to be grouchy at work. It’s no fun being around or being a grouch at work or at home. :)

  19. Bill Fleming 2015-03-17 08:06

    “self entitled jerks” describes most of the drivers I see on the road, and sometimes even myself, unfortunately. Something happens to us when we get in our cars. We go kind of nuts. What the heck is that anyway? (…come to think of it, it’s not unlike the way we sometimes act towards one another on blogs too, I suppose. ;-)

  20. Craig 2015-03-17 09:00

    Not everyone who rides a road bike is an entitled jerk, just as not everyone who drives a car is suffering from a mental disorder that makes them want to run down random bicyclists or pull out in front of motorcyclists.

    I tend to see more bad drivers than I do bad cyclists… but it is the law of averages since I see about 300 cars for every one bike. There does seem to be plenty of stupidity to go around however, as I commonly see bicyclists running stop signs and stop lights in town just as I see drivers ignoring bike lanes and failing to yield to bikes. The difference is, regardless of who is at fault, when a car and bicycle collide it is only the bicyclist getting carried off in the back of an ambulance.

    It all comes down to respect. If we respected each other, and if we respected the rules of the road including the common descency that suggests we shouldn’t try to bypass a queue when we know the lane is closed ahead or cut through parking lots to save 45 seconds on our daily commute, then we would all be better off.

    I’m just hoping 20 years from now the self driving cars will reduce the number of horrible drivers by at least 60%. In the meantime, investing in a dash cam is probably a good plan.

  21. Lynn 2015-03-17 09:18

    Craig and David,

    Driverless/Autonomous cars do sound very attractive for a number of reasons as both of you stated. Incidents of road rage could be greatly reduced, taking high risk drivers out of the equation either by distraction, under the influence or speeding 10 mph over the speed limit. It would be nice to go to a social gathering and have fun and not worry about driving afterwards, have the ability to read today’s news, relax with a good book or multi-task while commuting, picking up a disabled or elderly person for shopping, social or medical appointment.

    Plus one could add further efficiencies factoring in the cost of vehicle ownership is increasing and not needed with ride share or renting a car in some towns and cities. Based on the call for usage a battery electric car, hybrid or biodiesel hybrid all powered by green energy could be in the fleet. All kinds of opportunities for those that would need the usage of an automobile or pickup.

  22. leslie 2015-03-18 01:56

    bf-couterproductive behaviors come down to individual differences in personality and coping skills; a proclivity toward retaliation over reconciliation. a tendency to see cynical or suspicious motives or actions of others. aggressive people see mistreatment where others don’t, there is a fixation on power and respect. “road rage”


  23. Chris 2015-03-18 06:26

    There are some things that I am realizing.
    1. There are A LOT of people who have opinions that are not based on any facts whatsoever
    2. Some people think a person on a bicycle is less of a person than a person in a motor vehicle.
    3. There is a lot of educating that needs to be done before misinformation is handed from parent to child and the cycle of bad behavior and hate towards multi-modal road users continues.

    The following is NOT my opinion. The following is all fact. You can look it up yourself. You can have an opinion that differs from the facts presented, but you better have facts to disprove the information I share here.

    Now on to today’s lesson.

    Let’s start at the beginning:

    The impetus to create better roads didn’t come from the automobile industry, it came from cyclists. In February 1893, the Senate passed a law creating the Office of Road Inquiry. This office – charged with researching best-practice and learning what the Good Roads movement had spent the best part of 20 years lobbying for – later became the Federal Highways Administration.

    The Good Roads movement had been started by cyclists. Soon after its formation in 1880, the League of American Wheelmen started to push for better roads. The League of American Wheelmen – and the Good Roads movement – were bankrolled by Albert Pope, a veteran of the Civil War and the manufacturer of Columbia bicycles, the leading brand of the day.
    Cycle advocates such as Albert Pope championed roads, arguing they were of national importance. 150,000 signatures appeared on Pope’s petition.

    The 150,000 names were collected on individual sheets of paper printed by Pope and distributed by the League of American Wheelmen, bike shops, newspapers and other interested parties. These sheets of paper were sent back to Pope’s bicycle business for collation. They were combined into two rolls, and the 1400-yards of paper were coiled around two oak spools, and the giant petition presented to the Senate.

    Pope’s petition was influential – it was signed by the US Chief Justice, State Governors and was endorsed by banks, large corporations, boards of trade, labor organizations and a future President.

    Roads were now on the national, political agenda and the work of the League of American Wheelmen, funded by a bicycle manufacturer, helped to put federal mechanisms in place that would be later used by the nascent motor lobby to push for improved roads and, eventually, the interstate highway system.

    Pope had deep pockets. In 1890 he underwrote a five-year highway engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He launched essay competitions on the subject of good roads, backed up with extremely generous prizes of up to $500. In 1892 he paid the League of American Wheelmen to produce Good Roads magazine, a how-to publication distributed to surveyors, road engineers and cyclists nationwide.

    Pope’s influence went right to the top. President Benjamin Harrison said:
    “if wheelmen secure us the good roads for which they are so zealously working, your body deserves a medal in recognition of its philanthropy.”

    Bicycles were the catalyst for paved roads, not motor vehicles.

    But motor vehicle registrations, gas and wheel taxes, and license fees pay roads right? Wrong.

    Nationwide in 2010, state and local governments raised $37 billion in motor fuel taxes and $12 billion in tolls and non-fuel taxes, but spent $155 billion on highways. In other words, highway user taxes and fees made up just 32 percent of state and local expenses on roads. The rest was financed out of general revenues, including federal aid.

    Under the MAP-21 Transportation bill, South Dakota receives roughly $5.2 million dollars in Transportation Alternatives Program Funds from the federal government.

    Roughly $1 million dollars comes off the top and goes to Game, Fish and Parks. This money helps fund the State’s Recreational Trails Program, including rec trails for bicycling and pedestrian use. You can find out more about the program at

    Of the approximately $4.2 million dollars available, by federal law, the State is allowed to take up to 50% of the remaining funds and transfer them into other Federal Highway programs for use on statewide projects, or in layman’s terms, the “road general fund.”

    So, in addition to the property and sales taxes cyclists ALREADY pay, the vast majority own cars and pay all the same fuel and registration fees and taxes, AND as stated above, federal dollars meant for bike and pedestrian projects actually get rolled into the general fund.

    Well, you bicyclists don’t obey traffic signals. You dart in and out of traffic. You are hard to see.

    I am certified by the League of American Bicyclists to teach people the RIGHT way to ride a bicycle as a part of TRAFFIC. I teach people to be conspicuous. I teach people to be predictable. I teach people to be courteous. What does that look like? My students use arm signals. They ride in a straight line. They avoid the door zone of parked cars. They ride where drivers are looking. They obey traffic controls.

    Everyone that has a valid driver’s license has at a minimum taken some kind of test. Many have taken a class, maybe had time behind the wheel with an instructor. Everyone was taught to come to a complete stop at a red light.

    Last summer, I set up a camera at the corner of 49th and Kiwanis; a half block from where Natasha Adams was killed while riding a bicycle (more on her in a moment). For a half hour, I filmed people turning right, while they had a red light, off of Kiwanis to go west on 49th street. I filmed almost 40 different motorists turning right on a red light. Only one came to a complete stop. One. 39 motorists ran the red light. Only half of the vehicles turning right actually used their turn signal. These are things that were taught in drivers ed. These are things that exist in the drivers manual. These are current laws that exist.

    Well you bicyclists should be on the sidewalk then. Wrong.

    The average cyclist incurs a risk on the sidewalk 1.8 times as great as on the roadway, and the result is statistically significant. The greatest risk is for bicyclists traveling against traffic on the sidewalk; 5.3 times the average risk.

    Sidewalks or paths adjacent to a roadway are usually not, as non-cyclists expect, safer than the road, but much less safe. This conclusion is already well established in existing standards for bikeway design. The AASHTO Guide finds that the designated use of sidewalks as bikeways is “unsatisfactory.” The AASHTO Guide offers an extensive list of reasons for this recommendation, including wrong-way travel and blind conflicts at intersections and driveways.

    Even right-way sidewalk bicyclists can cross driveways and enter intersections at high speed, and they may enter from an unexpected position and direction—for instance, on the right side of overtaking right-turning traffic.

    Sidewalk bicyclists are more likely than roadway bicyclists to be obscured at intersections by parked cars, buildings, fences, and shrubbery; their stopping distance is much greater than a pedestrian’s, and they have less maneuverability.

    In addition to the hazards of motor vehicles at intersections (including driveways), sidewalks also present bicyclists with conflicts with pedestrians, joggers, skateboarders, roller skaters, and wheelchairs, and with fixed objects such as parking meters, utility poles, signposts, benches, trees, hydrants, and mailboxes. These hazards might further elevate the accident rate for sidewalk bicyclists.

  24. Fred Deutsch 2015-03-18 09:22

    HB 1030 was a smart piece of legislation brought by the DOT in response to ten years of annual bicycIe-motor vehicle collision, injury and death data. The numbers they presented show the problem is not improving. Currently SD has a subjective pass-at-a-safe-distance law. Under the new law, we will have an objective passing requirement. The test if the law is effective will be born out in the DOT data over the next few years. Will collisions, injuries and deaths be reduced? If so, the legislation has had its intended effect. If not, the law will be revisited and other variables considered.

  25. Darren Weisz 2015-03-18 11:30

    Most of my bicycle use is non-recreational. I spend my money where the businesses are bike friendly. Oh, yeah, I travel and vacation via a bicycle, by my choice. God bless America.

  26. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-18 16:14

    Darren, have you biked in MN? There is a lot of infrastructure designed to make bicycling safer and more convenient. The mountain biking trails are outstanding too.

  27. Darren Weisz 2015-03-19 07:44

    Yes I have biked a lot in MN. I love the Twin Cities & state-wide infrastructure. I spent a week bike camping in Northern MN last Spring.

  28. Lynn 2015-03-19 08:10

    You can add that one of the best designed velodromes in the country located in Blaine Mn just succeeded in their fund raising goals to refurbish extending the lifespan to 2019 giving more time for development of a new indoor velodrome and cycling facility to be built at the old Soo Line railroad yards just north of downtown Minneapolis on Central Ave. The National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine will reopen for regular season racing in May.

    It’s fun to watch as a spectator seeing all the action with games for the crowd being very inexpensive entertainment.

    Oh dear! It’s tempting to move back to Minnesota. lol

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-19 11:33

    Yay, velodrome! But don’t move back, Lynn! We can use you flying the bike flag here. :-)

    On Darren’s pleasant Minnesota experience: is good bike infrastructure more important to getting people on their bikes than safety laws like HB 1030? I suspect that even with these passing distances enacted, some people are never going to get on their bikes and ride the roads. Bike paths will inspire more people to pedal and will more effectively attract bicycle tourists.

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