The South Dakota Legislature will not require me to wear my bright pink t-shirt when I ride my bike. They may, however, require you motorists to give me three feet in town and six feet in the country.

Apparently listening to the bicycle community, Rep. Nancy Rasmussen (R-17/Hurley) went to House Transportation on February 17 and pulled the plug on her House Bill 1214, which would have required bicyclists to wear fluorescent or reflective clothing. Unlike Senator Corey Brown, when Rep. Rasmussen saw her bill was a bad idea, she didn't whine or threaten her opponents; she simply asked that the committee table her bill. Unlike most legislators, committee members Dennis Feickert, Jim Stalzer, and Mike Verchio did not automatically extend Rep. Rasmussen the standard courtesy of voting aye in response to a sponsor's tabling request. HB 1214 nonetheless died 10–3.

House Bill 1030, the "move over for bikes" bill, survived House Transportation, the full House, and Friday, Senate Transportation. You're already supposed to give any vehicle—motor or pedal—a "safe distance" when you pass; HB 1030 defines "safe distance" between cars and bikes as three feet at slower speeds and six feet at speeds above 35 miles per hour.

Department of Transportation lawyer Bill Nevin told Senate Transportation that the point of HB 1030 is not to write more tickets. The point is to educate everyone on the road and bring down the number of car-bicycle accidents. (Nevin said that from 2002 through 2013, South Dakota had 1,156 bicyclists injured—7 of them killed—in collisions with motor vehicles.)

Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-4/Florence), an avid cyclist, joined proponents testifying for HB 1030. He said cars frequently buzz by him within inches while he's riding... which is odd, because in all my riding, I rarely have such close encounters. Could South Dakota motorists be more inclined to buzz Republican legislators than liberal bloggers?

After additional proponentry from the Department of Public Safety, certified bicycle safety instructor Chris Parsley, and the American Heart Association, one opponent took the mic. Shane Barber, rancher and water tank manufacturer from Hermosa, ran the Gordon Howie critique, saying his road, twenty-foot-wide Lower Spring Creek Road, is to narrow to accommodate bicycles and the cars and overwidth hay trucks that would have to give them HB 1030's six-foot berth. Barber complained that HB 1030 makes no provision for "substandard width lanes," a phrase Barber chose carefully. Barber said that current law requires cyclists to ride "as close as practicable" to the right edge of the road. Among the exceptions to that stricture is a "substandard width lane" like Lower Spring Creek Road or Highway 34 through Madison, where cyclists are allowed to take the full lane to discourage passing. Barber said HB 1030 might be acceptable if it included some exception for drivers in such lanes and encouraged bicyclists to do what Barber said is standard practice for drivers of overwidth trucks and farm implements: pull over and let cars pass.

In response to Mr. Barber's concerns, Transportation Chairman Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) plugged his own road-funding bill as the best solution: "If we had more money, we could make the shoulders a little wider." Committee members and the audience laughed—Senator Vehle has been pushing more road funding for years—and the committee then unanimously passed House Bill 1030 to the full Senate.

* * *

By the way, Senate Transportation member Rep. Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City) mentioned during Friday's hearing that the safety concerns motivating HB 1030 are like those motivating the state's "move over" law for vehicles stopped along the side of the road. That's the rule that says if you see any vehicle pulled over with its hazard lights flashing on the Interstate, you need to get over in the passing lane. The law also applies on two-lane roads, but instead of moving over, the law requires that you slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit. That rule applies to any stopped vehicle with yellow flashers; HB 1030 applies only to bicycles "proceeding." So if you see Rep. Deutsch standing beside his bike on the shoulder of Highway 20 on the way to Florence, you don't have to swerve left six feet, but if he has his winky-blinky light on, you have to slow down to 45.

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Gordon Howie says House Bill 1030, which would require passing motorists to give cyclists three to six feet of space, is a stupid idea. To boost his point, Howie misrepresents the text of the bill:

The South Dakota Department of Transportation wants to force drivers into the lane of oncoming traffic, to accommodate bicycle riders. The SD House transportation committee unanimously agrees [Gordon Howie, "Move Over Stupid," The Right Side, 2015.02.12].

Read the bill, Gordon:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may partially cross the highway centerline or the dividing line between two lanes of travel in the same direction if it can be performed safely [House Bill 1030, as amended and approved by House Transportation, 2015.02.10].

HB 1030 says may, not shall. It allows drivers to cross the center line if said crossing "can be performed safely"—i.e., if there is no oncoming traffic. HB 1030 does not force anyone to play chicken.

Howie hollers thus to take the anti-liberty position that South Dakota should ban bicycles from some of its finest scenic roads for cycling:

Ask drivers on South Dakota’s Lower Spring Creek Road. They will tell you that sightseeing bicyclists already create an extreme hazard. They will also tell you this proposed law would make matters exponentially worse.

A BETTER SOLUTION would be to prohibit bicycle traffic on roads that do not meet specifications that allow safe travel for BOTH motor vehicles and bicycles [Howie, 2015.02.12].

Gordon, you're not allowing safe travel for bicyclists if you aren't allowing bicyclists to travel.

The solution is not to ban people from getting around under their own power and enjoying their freedom from car payments and petro-tyranny. The solution is to accommodate alternative transportation with sensible rules of the road like HB 1030 and infrastructure accommodations like bike paths and big shoulders.

Gordon Howie the conservative wants to limit your freedom to travel. I the liberal want to expand your liberty and let all travelers enjoy the safe mode of travel of their choice.

p.s.: Wisconsin estimated that the bicycle industry—manufacturing, retail, etc.—contributed $556 million and over 2,000 direct ongoing jobs to its economy. Bicycle tourism may contribute over $900 million to Wisconsin's economy, plus another $400 million in health benefits.

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The Department of Transportation is proposing a couple bills to make South Dakota's roads safer for non-motorized travelers.

For cyclists, SD-DOT offers House Bill 1030. HB 1030 seeks to codify the three-foot separation that cars and trucks should give to bicycles. That three feet is measured from your mirrors and the 2x4 sticking out the side of your trailer, not just your wheels. DOn't give that wide berth, and HB 1030 will give you a Class 2 misdemeanor.

HB 1030 also inserts a provision for stupid bicyclists:

No driver of a bicycle may overtake another vehicle on the right if the overtaken vehicle is signaling to make a right turn.

If you need the law to tell you that maneuver is a bad idea... well, I'll just let Darwinian selection handle that problem.

For folks on foot, SD-DOT recommends House Bill 1032, which clarifies crosswalk rules. Right now, SDCL 32-27-1 says drivers "within a business or residence district shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the highway within any clearly marked crosswalk or any regular pedestrian crossing...." HB 1032 gets rid of the qualifier "within a business or residence district," making clear that drivers must yield to pedestrians at crossings on any road. HB 1030 strikes "yield the right-of-way to" and inserts "bring the vehicle to a complete stop for." Under HB 1032, you can't keep creeping up on those walkers; you need to stand on those brakes. HB 1032 extends the reach of the law by adding "entering or" between "highway" and "within." I'll be curious to see the exact definition and geometry of "entering," but I'd say that if I'm driving and I see a pedestrian on the sidewalk with feet in motion breaking the plane of the curb, HB 1032 says I must stop.

Finally, HB 1032 nicely clarifies that if you're driving toward a crosswalk, and a vehicle in front of you has stopped to let a pedestrian cross, you also need to stop. I guess we need to spell things out for some people.

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A driver in an SUV kills a woman on a bicycle, and a Sioux Falls police captain says this:

Sioux Falls Police haven't issued any tickets for the crash that pinned Adams under the SUV and as they continue to talk with witnesses they don't believe anyone was doing anything wrong.

"It's a terrible tragedy. A very unfortunate situation and a life was lost because of it," Sioux Falls Police Captain Greg VandeKamp said.

Police don't believe speed was a factor because the SUV was stopped just short of the sidewalk waiting for an opening in traffic and when it pulled out it hit the bicyclist who was riding down the sidewalk.

"You know how it is trying to get out on a busy road. You're paying attention to the traffic, traffic, traffic and you're waiting for that gap. A lot can change in 15 to 20 seconds from one time you look one direction and you look back the other way," VandeKamp said.

Whether it's in a car or on a bike, officers say the crash is a tragic reminder that everyone needs to be paying attention when they are on the streets and sidewalks.

"A cyclist or a pedestrian you never can assume that they see you, or have seen you, because about that time tragedy happens as was in this case," VandeKamp said [Ben Dunsmoor, "SF Police: Bike Fatality a 'Terrible Tragedy'," KELOLand.com, 2014.07.17].

The Sioux Falls police office spends more time giving cyclists advice on KELO Radio:

Adams was legally riding her bicycle on the sidewalk when she was struck yesterday. That raises the question...should cyclists be riding on sidewalks?

VandeKamp says one of the local cycling groups recommends that its members ride in the street in order to be seen more easily by motorists. However, he adds that it's not a good idea to send young children on bikes into traffic.

Police are also reminding those who cycle on sidewalks that they must stop at intersections and walk their bike across the street [Greg Belfrage, "Fatal Traffic Accident Is Painful Reminder," KELO Radio: The Daily Dose, 2014.07.17].

Officer VandeKamp spending an awful lot of time admonishing the folks on thirty pounds of steel and extending sympathy to the folks trying to push two tons of steel into traffic.

Yes, I'll watch where I'm riding. Yes, I'll wear bright pink and chartreuse and other wild colors. Yes, I'll avidly seek eye and voice contact with every driver I see at every intersection so we can verify each other's awareness and intentions. Yes, I'll take my two wheels out into the street and off the sidewalk whenever possible. Heck, I'll even brake and ring a bell or shout a gentle, "Bike left!" to pedestrians I'm overtaking so they don't jump at my swift and silent passing.

But who killed whom at 49th and Kiwanis? Who ultimately did not look, did not see the bicycle coming, and did not think, "Boy, that gal is an idiot, riding her bike during the noon rush hour, but she may have kids in that trailer, she may not want to take that trailer out on the street, and she doesn't look like she's stopping, so I guess it's up to me to avoid this accident and wait another ten seconds to get on my way"?

Little, then big. People on foot have the right of way. Always. Then bicycles. Cars come last. Last, last, last. When we are driving cars, we have the greatest power, and we thus have the greatest responsibility. That responsibility is a small price to pay for the luxury of internal combustion, satellite radio, and air conditioning.

Or you can just kill someone and tell yourself, "She should have been looking," every night.

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Cars may be on the way out, says a new AP report. Households have been driving less since 2004, young people are waiting longer to get driver's licenses, car-sharing is on the rise...

...and to make the point, AP features South Dakota ex-pat Sam Kirstein, who was always in front of me when we ran cross-country with the Madison HS Bulldogs in 1985:

At 6:45 a.m., Sam Kirstein pulls into central Minneapolis after a 5-mile commute, parks and locks his vehicle -- and heads for a hot shower.

You wouldn't know when he takes a seat minutes later, wearing a pressed striped dress shirt, that he arrived on two wheels.

Kirstein, an accountant, recalls growing up in a small town in South Dakota where "cars were a way of life." In Minneapolis, he drove 45 minutes to work in traffic, until he and his wife wearied and set off to bike cross-country. They returned, but never put away the bikes. Last year, Kirstein cycled to work every day but five, and put 4,000 miles on a car that used to clock 15,000.

"The only thing I miss is being able to listen to the radio," says Kirstein, 45, nursing a mug of coffee at Freewheel Bike -- sort of a rest stop for cyclists with lockers, bike parking and a cafe -- before heading up to the office.

Each day, more than 3,500 others share Kirstein's route on the Midtown Greenway, a freight rail bed converted to bike highway. More than 4 percent of Minneapolis commutes now happen on a bike, doubling since 2000. Despite bitter winters, more are testing the idea of leaving cars behind [Adam Geller, "Americans and Their Cars: A Love Affair on Fumes?" AP via MPR News, 2014.06.01].

Kirstein's dedication to two-wheeling is the Minneapolis version of Kevin Brady's down in Vermillion. Brady reports on his Facebook page that he has commuted to work for 1,900 consecutive days, through cracked ribs, cracked elbow, and maybe a broken wrist.

Guys like Kirstein and Brady show that even folks who grow up on the windy, snowy prairie can figure out that there are better ways to get from A to B than an expensive, insurance-laden automobile and that sometimes the best four wheels you can buy are two bikes, one for you, and one for your sweetheart.

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The Lake County Commission went on the road Tuesday to "research" (I giggle just a little) their bike trail extension plans. Real research would have included riding their bikes out to Lake Madison.

Connecting the current spur of the bike trail that ends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entrance (hey! FWS! Close that facility before you close the Booth Hatchery!) to the county's public access area on the southwest shore of Lake Madison. To get there, the county needs to lay about one and a quarter miles of new trail south along Highway 19, then east parallel to 236th Street, along the south edge of the remaining county poor farm land. That eastward stretch has a shelterbelt on it. The commissioners and highway superintendent Scott Mathison had the good gosh-darn sense to suggest that the county save the trees:

Once on site, the commissioners and Lake County Highway Superintendent Scott Mathison seemed to feel the north side of the trees was best. They seemed to agree that putting the trail along the road or going through the shelterbelt would likely require taking out several trees, which would be an expensive proposition.

Mathison seemed confident that the trail would work on the north side by taking out the volunteer bushes and trimming up trees. The commissioners did not take any formal vote on the matter [Jane Utecht, "County Takes Research Road Trip," Madison Daily Leader, 2013.08.21].

Yay for trees! Madison's bike trail currently runs through mostly open country. After a mile or two of leaning into the sun and stiff south wind, all pedalers will enjoy that quarter mile of shade and shelter. Keep those trees!

The county could save a little concrete by continuing the southeasterly diagonal of the first part of this trail extension right on through the Sunset Harbor development right to the public access area beach. Residents there would enjoy quick and easy bicycle access, and cyclists from town could get to the beach faster with less time spent alongside the noisy highway. Developer Dan Lemme might be interested in such a trail proposal. He met with commissioners on their road trip at Sunset Harbor and proposed that the county swap him some of its poor-farm land for the squiggly, woodsy strip of land he owns on the south shore of Herkimer Pond. Utecht's text is fuzzy here, but she reports that Lemme suggested continuing the bike path through that area for beach access. Perhaps Lemme would also support the mountain-bike loops that Tony and I think would be a great idea!

Connecting the current Madison bike path to the county's beach is a good idea. But remember: if you really want bicycle bliss, you've got to build a loop. I have my plan for a loop around Lake Herman; our county commissioners should think big and extend their current trail in a long figure out around Lake Madison and Brant Lake down to Chester and back!

Comments Off on Lake County to Extend Bike Trail, Save Trees!

Change of heart: we couldn't resist going to Sioux Falls today to exercise our right to open carry:

Our bikes on the family car, July 27, 2013.

Dad's bike, Mom's bike, openly carried.

We encourage all of our fellow South Dakotans to do the same.

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The good news from Rapid City city councilman Ron Sasso: he's pushing repeal of Rapid City's bike registration laws. Rapid City Municipal Code Chapter 10.64 currently requires residents to pay a $1 fee to register every bicycle. Anyone selling a bicycle must report the name and address of the bicycle buyer to the city. Sasso wisely advocates repeal of this nefarious bicycle registry, lest the government use that registry to punish patriots who would pedal to the revolution.

Oops—sorry. I'm still suffering Tea Party withdrawal. Sasso just thinks the unenforced bike regulations serve no good and discourage bicycle riding.

The bad news from Ron Sasso: he's running for theocrat-in-chief with a Web video that opens with the word Faith and defends the government establishment of religion through official council prayers. Sasso contends that he has a First Amendment right to use the public dais to promote his religion.

Sasso fails to understand that the First Amendment grants him the freedom of speech and religion as an individual, not as an agent of the government elected by the people. He fails to recognize that the First Amendment, like all of the Bill of Rights, protects individuals from exactly the sort of government encroachment on their freedom of religion that Sasso wants to commit from the dais. And he fails to explain how his faith will fill any potholes or pay any police.

Bradley Estes is challenging Sasso for his Ward 5 council seat. His billboards tell me that Estes creates jobs. Estes tells RCJ that he's not a politician... even though by running for office and seeking to affect how we live together in the polis, he is a politician. No word (and apparently, no website) from Estes yet on where he stands on bikes or theocracy.

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