The House Transportation Committee gave bicycle safety a kind nod today. After three weeks of arduous discussion and deferrals, House Transportation decided just how wide a berth cars ought to give bicycles. House Bill 1030, as originally drafted by the state Department of Transportation, asked drivers to give bicyclists three feet. House Transportation went further, today amending HB 1030 to say three feet is fine where cars are going 35 and under, but six feet is needed if the posted speed limit is higher. House Transportation's new version of the bill lets drivers cross the center line to give that gap (which lots of drivers already do for me out in the country, thank you very much!). The committee, including my new Rep. Kaiser and occasional blog visitors Rep. Hickey and Rep. Schoenbeck, all voted aye and sent HB 1030 to the House floor.

But hang on, cyclists: the Legislature's respect may come at a regulatory price. More two-wheeler dealing awaits House Transportation in House Bill 1214, in which numerous Republicans would tell bicyclists what to wear:

Any person operating a bicycle on a highway shall wear garments made of fluorescent or reflective material. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor [House Bill 1214, original version, filed 2015.02.03].

Oh well: there go plans for bringing World Naked Bike Ride to South Dakota. (There is such a thing, designed as a protest against vehicle emissions. I'd link, but they're really naked, and this is a family blog. ;-) )

The Republican sponsors of HB 1214 probably wear belts and suspenders. An eager reader notes that SDCL 32-17-25 already imposes the following visibility requirements on bicycles:

Every bicycle shall be equipped with a lighted lamp on the front thereof visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of at least three hundred feet in front of such bicycle and shall also be equipped with a reflex mirror or lamp on the rear exhibiting a yellow or red light visible under like conditions from a distance of at least two hundred feet to the rear of such bicycle [SDCL 32-17-25].

If you can't see my mandatory lights and reflectors at night, is my hot pink shirt going to help?

Of course, if the batteries go out on my winkie-blinkies, SDCL 32-17-25 only lets Officer Kaiser write me up for a petty offense and charges me $25, same as he would if the headlights or taillights on my Volkswagen went out. HB 1214 whacks dim Goth riders with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which means the fashion police really could put me in jail.

Hmm... hurtling down the highway in two tons of metal death without headlights poses more risk to public safety than my pedaling thirty pounds of aluminum and granola bars down the street without a garish shirt. The penalties don't seem proportionate to the "crimes." And if we're regulating cyclists for their own safety (and I do look forward to hearing the Republican sponsors make that argument), where's the reflecto-vest requirement for walkers? Pedestrians are at a greater risk of getting hit by cars than cyclists, since pedestrians can't move as fast to get out of the way.

Rep. Nancy Rasmussen is prime sponsor of HB 1214. Reps. Jim Bolin and Jim Stalzer are among the co-sponsors. Those three voted for HB 1216 today in House Transportation; let's see if those three draw a connection between requiring drivers to move over for bicycles and requiring bicyclists to wear brighter clothes.

Bonus Questions: HB 1214 says cyclists "shall wear garments made of fluorescent or reflective material."

  1. Does garments, plural, mean each cyclist must wear more than one bright and/or shiny piece of clothing?
  2. Do my reflective ankle-straps count as "garments"?
  3. Does the entire garment need to be made entirely of fluorescent or reflective material, or will black jogging pants with little reflective lines and patches satisfy HB 1214?
  4. Looking at the wording of HB 1214 very carefully, can I still wear my favorite black bike pants and jacket as long as I wear glittery underpants underneath?