Cedar Rapids PD: Motorists should use common sense when passing cyclists

Officer Gary Idle of the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s Traffic Bureau says a motorist passing a bicyclist on the road should use common sense: Slow down, make sure no one is coming from the opposite direction, and pass “with safe distance.”

Officer Idle responded to some questions I emailed to CRPD a few weeks ago. (The DOT’s bicycle/pedestrian coordinator has not responded so far.)

The questions were prompted by the apparent failure of a new bike safety law in the Iowa Legislature. At this late date in the current legislative session, it looks like the law’s best chance is next year.

My concern was that it might not be clear what present law says about motorists and what they are required to do when encountering cyclists on Iowa roads. It looks like the law doesn’t say much at all right now.

CRPD Sgt. Cory McGarvey relayed Officer Idle’s findings, saying, “He spent a good deal of time researching the law on this.”

Here is what he found (boldface added):

“I couldn’t find anything specifics in Iowa state traffic law reference bicycles even being included as obeying rules of the road. Most of the laws for bicycles are governed by local cities and towns. City of Cedar Rapids recognizes persons on bicycles (61.009) to be subject to the provisions of the traffic regulations just like the driver of a motor vehicle. I don’t think your going to find anything that is going to note the specifics that B.J. “Bernie” Smith wants. I did an online search just as he probably did and I did not find much. Each City or town probably governs there own traffic law in regards to bicycles. I found one website Bicycle Driving which had links to state codes of 50 states. The website is bicycle driving.org/law/guide-to-improving-laws. I think it is just common sense when passing a bicycle. I don’t think there is a LEGAL REQUIREMENT. You SLOW DOWN. Make sure NO TRAFFIC IS COMING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTION. PASS WITH SAFE DISTANCE FROM BICYCLIST AS TO NOT HIT THEM. This is pretty much the same thing you would do when passing a motor vehicle or slow moving vehicle (example : tractor) I would say that bicyclists do have a legal right to be on Iowa roads and streets as long as they are governed to do so. Do the counties have there own traffic code sections reference bicycles? The only thing I could find in state code reference bicycles is the head light on bikes and the siren use on a bicycle. As I noted before I could not even find anything reference the state code even recognizing bicycles are subject to the provisions of state traffic regulations of a motor vehicle.”

If there really isn’t a legal requirement, there should be.

Pass with care, please.

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5 Responses to “Cedar Rapids PD: Motorists should use common sense when passing cyclists”


  1. 1 David Glandon April 21, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I found this in the Iowa code;
    321.234 Bicycles, animals, or animal-drawn vehicles.
    1. A person riding an animal or driving an animal drawing a vehicle upon a roadway is subject to the provisions of this chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
    2. A person, including a peace officer, riding a bicycle on the highway is subject to the provisions of this chapter and has all the rights and duties under this chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application or those provisions for which specific exceptions have been set forth regarding police bicycles.
    3. A person propelling a bicycle on the highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle.
    4. A person shall not use a bicycle on the highway to carry more persons at one time than the number of persons for which the bicycle is designed and equipped.
    5. This section does not apply to the use of a bicycle in a parade authorized by proper permit from local authorities.
    Section History: Early form
    [C39, § 5017.07; C46, 50, 54, 58, 62, 66, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, § 321.234]
    Section History: Recent form
    85 Acts, ch 40, §2; 97 Acts, ch 71, §2
    Internal References
    Referred to in § 321.236, 805.8(2j)

    So there are laws on the book, but they are hard to find.
    The big problem I had with the introduction of new laws was and is the fact that they do not get enforced. There is a story about Ken Sherman who was hit by a car and injured. The driver of the car who should have been charged with “Failure to Yield to the Right of Way” was instead let off while Ken suffered painful injuries. Ken is but one story that only motivates cyclist, unless seriously hurt, not call the police. I know when I got hit two years ago if I called the cops they would take forever in getting there and would cite no one. So what would be the point?

    Making Cedar Rapids Bicycle Friendly is great but I do believe beyond the trails, events, and laws, we need to make sure that the local authority will enforce the laws. We must also make sure there are provisions with this endeavor for education of school age kids and adults, whether it is Kirkwood style classes, or in the schools. Education is the key for all of this to work well

  2. 2 B.J. Smith April 21, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for the information, David. I forwarded that information to Sgt. McGarvey. It seems to me that if cyclists are unwilling to report problems with motorists, they are missing an opportunity to educate both motorists and law enforcement officers about what should be happening. I saw passage of the law that would require a 5-foot passing distance as another such opportunity. For now, it seems, people are on their own to determine what is a safe and reasonable distance by which to pass.

  3. 3 sls August 4, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I thinkk bikes should be kept off the roads. They don’t pay road tax or have to pay to register their bikes. They make it dangerous for themselves by riding 2 & 3 & 4 wide, going slow and NOT letting vehicles pass them. They stupidly try to play chicken with you…if I wanted to go that slow, I would be riding a bike. People are trying to get where they need to be and then you come up on a cyclist that won’t let you go around them. Make cyclist pay a fee and use that fee to put in a bike lane for them. Safer for everyone.

  4. 4 B.J. Smith August 4, 2009 at 11:48 am

    SLS, it is simply not true that cyclists don’t pay road taxes. Most of us pay all the same taxes that you pay.

    I have never known a cyclist to play chicken with anyone, and we don’t set out to impede traffic. We are traffic.

    In most cases, we are simply trying to get somewhere we need or want to be.


  1. 1 Should bicyclists be banned on county roads? | GazetteOnline.com Trackback on August 4, 2009 at 8:46 am
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