A cranky minority of legislators hate bicyclists. We saw an outbreak of two-wheeler-whacking during last year’s successful effort to write into law the passing berth motorists must give bicyclists. Now some legislators who hate bicycles are proposing House Bill 1073, which amends an important bicycle safety statute in three ways that put cyclists at greater risk:
- The current law requires cyclists to ride as close as practicable to the righthand curb or edge of the road, with an exception for avoiding hazardous conditions. The current law says those conditions include but are not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, and surface hazards. HB 1073 removes the catch-all clause that allows other unlisted hazards to justify leaning left. Are branches hanging down over the roadway considered a surface hazard? How about a stiff north wind as I try to keep it steady heading eastbound?
- Worse, HB 1073 removes the allowance for bicyclists to ride away from the curb on substandard-width roads, those that are too narrow to accommodate both a bicycle and a car. Instead of letting cyclists remain visible and safe, HB 1073 forces cyclists to hug that the edge of the pavement on those narrow roads, inviting motorists to squeeze by them on roads where squeezing cannot safely take place.
- In the killer, HB 1073 literally orders bicyclists off the road:
If a person is operating a bicycle within a no passing zone on a roadway that has no shoulder or a shoulder of less than three feet in width, the person shall stop the bicycle, move the bicycle off the roadway, and allow a faster vehicle to pass [excerpt, House Bill 1073, posted 2016.01.21].
Want to kill bicycle tourism in the Black Hills? That line does it. Riding Spearfish Canyon becomes practically impossible, as the popular road between Savoy and Cheyenne Crossing in many places has no shoulder and often little to no room for cyclists to step off safely even if they wanted to. Even if I brave the bush or dive over the drop-off, I’ll be dismounting on a nice day in the Canyon every minute, making a nice smooth ride in a reasonable time frame impossible.
Hillary Angus of Momentum Mag (wow, South Dakota Legislature—can you ever get national press for doing something amazingly good?) recognizes that basic impracticality and the heightened risk HB 1073 poses for bicyclists:
…there are a lot of practical considerations that don’t really add up. If there is no shoulder, where is the person with the bike supposed to go? Sure in an urban setting they can stand on the sidewalk while letting streams of car pass them by, but what about on any one of the state’s 5,875 bridges? Or roads with guardrails such as this one [Iron Mountain Road! whoo-hoo!], which you’ll note has a shoulder of less than three feet in a no-passing zone. I can only assume bicyclists in this case are just supposed to toss the bike over the edge and sit on the fence while the car passes? [Hillary Angus, “South Dakota Bill Would Require Cyclists to Dismount for Passing Cars,” Momentum Mag, 2016.01.25]
Dakota Rural Action says HB 1073 undermines the sensible shared use of roads:
Sure, roadways are inherently the realm of automobiles. But nowadays the shared use of roads amongst a diversity of travel modes is a given and has been promoted by public policy at all levels. HB 1073 is a push against that important norm. It offers exclusive solutions favoring the motor vehicle where simple, inclusive solutions could solve the problem. Looking to initiatives like Complete Streets, which has shaped policy in a number of municipalities across the state, is a great place to start. Complete Streets is smart policy that fosters healthy growth plans through the incorporation all forms of transportation. Rather than simply pushing the bicyclist, pedestrian, or any other slower, human-powered traveler off the road, state legislators should look to creating roadways that incorporate diversity of travel [Tony Helland, “HB 1073—Get off the Road, Cyclists?” Dakota Rural Action Legislative blog, 2016.01.27].
Amish carriages go slower than most cyclists, but the Ohio Department of Transportation doesn’t tell the Amish to head for the ditch every time the English come roaring up behind them. Instead, Ohio DOT reminds car drivers of their responsibility to be extra cautious, to “slow down and give buggies and horse-drawn equipment plenty of room when passing” and “only pass when legal and safe.”
Sioux Falls cyclist Michael Christensen of The MinusCar Project is hosting weekly phone meetings to discuss this matter and organize some positive legislative action. Cyclists can take their first positive action to kill HB 1073 by attending tomorrow (Thursday, January 28) morning’s hearing of the House Transportation Committee, Room 413 in the Capitol at 10 a.m. HB 1073 is the only bill on the committee’s agenda. Five of House Transportation’s thirteen members, including chairman Mike Verchio, are sponsoring HB 1073. But this same committee passed last year’s safety-enhancing bike-passing bill unanimously (with Verchio and Werener absent), and eleven of the committee’s members voted for that bill on the House floor. Contact those members today and encourage them not to undo the good work they did for bicycle safety last year.