Lobbyist’s column on safe-passing law high in balderdash content

The Des Moines Register today published some good information, along with an oversized dose of balderdash, about the bicycle safety legislation being considered in the Iowa capitol.

In a guest column by Will Rogers, director of government affairs for the Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association, drivers were told that cyclists have a right to use the road. Good. He gave some other sound advice to both motorists and cyclists.

On at least a couple of points, however, I beg to differ. Take this statement, for example:

“The question I have asked several bicycle advocates is how legislation would make it safer for bicycles to be on the road. So far, I haven’t received a satisfactory answer. Instead of trying to pass laws that won’t be enforced, bicycle advocates should focus their efforts on educating both drivers and bicyclists.”

I don’t know what those advocates told him that he didn’t find satisfactory (it is hard to imagine an answer this lobbying group* would find satisfactory), and I would dispute his assumption that the law won’t be enforced. If your friend or loved one is run over by a farm truck, it will be pretty clear that the driver violated the passing law. Close calls can also be documented and prosecuted.

Passing a law defining a safe passing distance will be a terrific opportunity to educate drivers and cyclists alike. Rogers agrees that education is important.

More balderdash, however:

  • He asserts that cyclists should avoid roads because they are not designed for leisure activities. By that measure, we should refrain from driving motor homes, cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles if our intentions are other than strictly commercial.
  • He states, without really saying what his point is, that most of our roads and highways were developed and paid for by motor vehicle use. In fact, they have been paid for by people, many of whom ride bicycles as well as drive motorized vehicles.

Two more things:

  • Mr. Rogers discounts the economic value of many cycling-related businesses. Cyclists spend money on meals, lodging and tourist activities as well as bicycles, accessories and safety equipment. Smart people learn to cash in on those opportunities to make sales.
  • His advice to cyclists to “move as far to the right as possible when drivers are attempting to pass you” is actually quite dangerous. It invites those drivers to squeeze by in the lane rather than give the cyclist the courtesy of a safe distance.

He does get some credit for this, though:

“Ride defensively, and assume that everyone is out to run you over.”

I do. I do.

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*Rogers’ group helped prevent passage of bike-safety legislation last year, as he pointed out in the September 2009 issue of The Retailer.

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1 Response to “Lobbyist’s column on safe-passing law high in balderdash content”

  1. 1 crazy commuting cyclist February 20, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Could you image if RAGBRAI did not happen? The loss of at least a million or more would have a big impact on Iowa. Not to mention the loss of tourist who come back to Iowa because of RAGBRAI. No cycling has added a lot to the Iowa economy. It may not be the big money maker but if cycling was curbed in some way, our economy would be hurt.

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