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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Senator Greenfield Calls Trooper Political Lackey

South Dakota Highway Patrol Major Dana Svendsen testified against Senate Bill 162 Thursday. That bill was Senator Brock Greenfield's (R-2/Clark) attempt to allow certain trained legislators to carry weapons in the South Dakota Capitol during Session as a back-up security force.

Major Svendsen has been in charge of security at the Capitol since 2002, during which time no legislator has suffered an assault or other crime that I know of on Capitol grounds. Major Svendsen testified (starting at 19:10 in this SDPB archived audio) that Senate Bill 162 had numerous flaws. On the technical side, he said SB 162 appeared to have been prepared without consultation with the Attorney General (and Senator Greenfield subsequently confirmed that he had not discussed the bill with the AG or with the Department of Public Safety, of which the HP is a part). Major Svendsen said the bill did not contain funding for the Attorney General's office to administer the training program.

Moving to the heart of the Highway Patrol's concerns, Major Svendsen said SB 162 posed a grave security risk by keeping secret from law enforcement the identity of armed legislators. Officers moving into an active-shooter situation who see unknown civilians firing weapons have to make a split-second decision about those shooters' intent. "This scenario has the potential to end very badly," said the Highway Patrol major. Major Svendsen did not directly address Senator Greenfield's comment earlier in the hearing that he knows multiple legislators who illegally carry guns in the Capitol, but it would appear Major Svendsen and his troopers already face that very dangerous scenario.

Major Svendsen said that the Highway Patrol takes its responsibility for Capitol security very seriously and that it would be a mistake to pass that duty off to legislators. "Anyone can hit a target when they're not under stress," said Major Svendsen, who called into question whether the training called for in SB 162 would be sufficient to address the threats Senator Greenfield targeted. Major Svendsen said troopers undergo continual training, not just target practice, but training in shoot-don't-shoot situations and in dealing with unstable people. Troopers are trained to be constantly mindful of the fact that every situation they enter has a gun involved, since they carry guns into every situation. "Bad people will try to take that gun away from you and use it against you," warned Major Svendsen. "If a person isn't trained for that or trained to have that mindset, who knows what could happen."

To these valid administrative and security concerns, Senator Greenfield rebutted thus:

The gentleman who just came forward has a job to do, and that job is to create doubt about... a bill that the administration doesn't agree with [Senator Brock Greenfield, rebuttal, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, South Dakota State Legislature, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.12, timestamp 23:30].

Senator Greenfield hears practical security concerns from the man who has successfully managed Capitol security for over a decade and dismisses them as mere political lackeyism.

Senator Greenfield proceeded in his rebuttal to ignore most of the points Major Svendsen raised. The Senator said he would be happy to consult with the Attorney General, but whined (I don't think that verb exaggerates) that he didn't hear any opposition to SB 162 until after 4 p.m. the day before this hearing, leaving "no time for me to work with them." Senator Greenfield claimed that since the Department of Public Safety didn't take a position on the school gunslinger bill in 2013, he could reasonably assume that the Department of Public Safety wouldn't take a position against a bill arming civilians in a building over which they have direct responsibility for security.

Senate Judiciary wisely killed this ill-thought-out bill Thursday. Senator Greenfield showed not just a thoughtless disregard for expert opinion but a serious and selfish disrespect for the law enforcement officers who will risk their lives to keep him safe.

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Senate Judiciary yesterday heard and wisely killed Senate Bill 162, Senator Brock Greenfield's (R-2/Clark) bad idea to authorize legislators to carry concealed weapons in the State Capitol.

In advocating his bill, which Greenfield said he thunk up all on his lonesome without consulting with the Department of Public Safety whose troopers currently protect the Capitol, the senator from Clark offered this evidence of dangerous and arrogant lawbreaking by his colleagues:

...In my 15 years here I have come to learn that sometimes legislators break the law. Believe it or not, they break the law by carrying their concealed weapon into the Capitol, because for them, I guess they feel that their lives are paramount and that the law prohibiting us to carry is secondary [Senator Brock Greenfield, testimony on Senate Bill 162 before Senate Judiciary, South Dakota Legislature, Pierre, SD, 2015.02.12, timestamp 17:32]

Senator Greenfield is testifying to the fact that multiple legislators think they are bigger than the law. Senator Greenfield is testifying that he is aware of multiple instances of Class 1 misdemeanors putting the public and law enforcement officials at risk. (Luckily for Senator Greenfield, it's only a crime not to report felonies, not misdemeanors.)

Given that Senator Greenfield has alerted us to this criminal risk to public safety, perhaps the state troopers who protect the Capitol and all of the citizens therein now have justification to stop and frisk legislators. If people are bringing guns into the Legislature, law enforcement should stop them and punish them according to the law.

And legislators, if you can't get your priorities straight, if you go to work on the people's dime thinking the law is secondary to your whims and fears, maybe you're in the wrong line of work.

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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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It wouldn't be a South Dakota Legislative Session without lots of talk about guns. We have five bills easing or outright repealing our concealed weapons rules. Three have passed the House.

Awaiting its first hearing is Senate Bill 162, which reads like a version of the unwise and thankfully unused school sentinel law passed in 2013. Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) wants legislators to be able to carry concealed weapons "for purposes of deterrence and defense against any violent attack against the Legislature, its members, its staff, and members of the public in attendance of any meeting of the Legislature."

Yes, because there are so many violent attacks on the Capitol in Pierre, and because our legislators are best trained and equipped to respond to crime with deadly force.

Senator Greenfield would create a whole bunch of bureaucracy to allow certain legislators to pack heat in the Capitol. The Attorney General would have to approve each request, and the permit-seeking legislators would have to take firearms training.

SB 162 would also keep the names of the pistol-permitted legislators secret. As I did with the school gunslinger bill, I find such secrecy offensive. If I visit the Capitol, I want to know exactly which legislators are carrying weapons so that I can be alert to the possibility of some legislator going off half-cocked. If Pierre is so dangerous, if our civil institutions have so egregiously failed, that we must allow legislators to carry firearms, they should carry those weapons openly, on their hips, to constantly remind us of the imminent danger all around.

But we elect our legislators to legislate, not play security guard. We pay taxes for qualified law enforcement officials to patrol the Capitol and protect our leaders. We don't need more Capitol gunslingers. Our legislators should all put their guns down and focus on public policy.

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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?
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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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David Montgomery leaves us with a report on the Minnehaha County Commission's decision to drive more bicyclists off the road by rumble-stripping the Wall Lake Road. The shoulder there is already narrow; rumble strips will make the rideable shoulder perilously thin. The county does not plan to pony up the cash to expand the shoulder to a safer width for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Understand, motorists, than if the county is going to render the shoulder unrideable, we cyclists will expect you to share the driving lane with us. Keep your eyes open.

But we know we'll have to pedal to the shoulder every now and then, so in hopes that the engineers will offer cyclists some accommodation, so Minnehaha County, at least keep the grooves thin and shallow, and space them out.

Or better yet, since the rumble strips are there to deal with inattentive motorists, why not place the inconvenience in the motorists' lane? Instead of taking five inches away from bicyclists, why not cut those grooves on the left side of the white stripe? Give motorists a rumble before their tires hit the line, and before their mirrors are sticking out into the shoulder where they can slip bicyclists? Left-cut rumble strips would guarantee that I would stay on the shoulder instead of swinging an extra foot out into the driving lane.

Once again, Left-leaning policies are better for everyone.

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