Tomorrow, more than a hundred and as many as five hundred cyclists will take to the streets of Des Moines to protest a severe problem in Iowa – bicycle safety. Just last weekend, two bicycle accidents heightened awareness about the need for new legislation to protect cyclists. On Saturday, Doug Smith was run down by a motorist while riding his near Winterset. While Doug is currently recovering in at Methodist Hospital, he sustained life threatening injuries. A Des Moines resident, Smith was struck by a anhydrous ammonia tank that was being pulled by a truck that passed him on the road. John Lynch, the driver of that truck, was attempting to pass the cyclist in a no-passing zone, according to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. When Lynch pulled back into his lane, the back tank swung wide and collided with Smith. The accident is just one of a rash of accidents that have occurred between motor vehicles and cyclists. Earlier this year, Ken Sherman was riding through an intersection in Des Moines when he was struck and injured. Sherman was struck when a motorist failed to yield to him, but the police failed to even issue a citation to the motorist – despite the police finding that the motorist was at fault.
In the wake of these accidents, Iowans are encouraged to support Senate File 117, a bill aimed at increasing bicycle safety. Among numerous protections for cyclists in the bill, motorists would be required to pass on the left and not return to the right until the way was clear, all while maintaining at least five feet of distance from cyclists. Another change would require the use of signals and prohibit motorists from entering intersections that are not clear. Both of these improvements could have helped Smith and Sherman. Supporters hope that the improvements will secure safe cycling for others, and prevent some of the tragic and severe accidents that have been occurring.
Senate File 117 was proposed even before the accident that struck down Smith, but the bill failed despite passing in the Senate. It missed a crucial funnel date, but the House can still consider the bill – which needs your support. The bill would provide necessary protections for cyclists and give cyclists some of the protection already enjoyed by pedestrians. Tomorrow, protestors of the accidents and supporters of the bill will ride from Rasmussen’s Bike Shop in Des Moines to the state capital to make their voices heard. To show your support, you can join the ride that is leaving 301 Grand Avenue in West Des Moines at 5:30 PM. Or, email your legislators to voice support for the bill.