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House Transportation: Give Cyclists Six Feet… and Make Them Wear Hot Pink?

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?


  1. Roger Elgersma 2015.02.10

    Excellent! even though I may need to buy new summer and winter cloths with color on them.

  2. grudznick 2015.02.10

    What is a Goth rider, Mr. H? Do you bikers have vampire clubs among you and are they Wikens?

  3. Neal 2015.02.10

    They would make criminals of people, going as far as to literally incarcerate them, for not wearing the right clothing. This from men who claim to be conservatives, those who brag about their commitment to freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility. Our "leaders" are oblivious. Almost all the people who support them are oblivious.

    Classic South Dakota.

  4. grudznick 2015.02.11

    Wear the right clothes, Mr. Neal, or you will be put in the right clothes. That is how you feel this law is treating you, right? I can see that. I think South Dakota should probably just kill that law and let the bikers fare on their own instead of angering Mr. Neal further. For the beast's sake, what would one do for a 3 wheeled bicycle going down the road and a volkswagon trying to pass it 6 feet to the left?

  5. Tim 2015.02.11

    What about painted on fluorescent stripes? You could still be naked then? Just sayin.

  6. Lynn 2015.02.11

    While I greatly appreciate the distance given to cyclists by drivers the requirement for lighting and reflective clothing do not make much sense. Did actual cyclists help write this bill?

    Lighting and reflective material: I totally understand the need and requirement for low light conditions such as dawn, dusk and night time. Personally I don't care if my tree looks like a blinking Christmas tree. I don't want to get hit especially for those who commute and leave their car at home(frugal, health and environmental issues)

    During the day I sure don't want a light on my mountain bike for a training ride or riding the road to my favorite trail (light might fall off or get broken) or on my road bike. lights are not needed then and are not practical.

    During daylight hours bright clothes help but that should be at the discretion of the rider. What if I'd like to wear my favorite Tour de France jersey, advertise a cause I support by wearing a ride for MS jersey, my racing team or club jersey advertising those entities/businesses that pay money to support our club or team and those that just wear casual clothing that work for riding your bike and can just blend into going shopping or the local coffee shop?

    Reflective material is far less effective during the day.

    This bill is not practical and goes way too far with the requirement and penalty for cyclists in regards to when and where to use reflective materials, lights and bright clothing.

  7. W R Old Guy 2015.02.11

    I agree with Tim. I think you could meet the clothing requirement by wearing a cap with a reflective band, reflective armbands and reflective body paint. It hasn't been that many years ago the Sturgis had to change it's nudity ordinance because some of the rally attendees were using body paint in place of clothing.

  8. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.11

    Any rider that plays in traffic should wear total upper body florescent green so they can be seen easier by those going faster. They should have the same visibility requirments as a no passing sign. Riders should stick out like a sore thumb from other scenery along the highway.

    If you dont want to equip your mountain bike for highway use, dont ride on the highway. Even hunters have to wear hunter orange, whats the problem with two wheelers having to wear at least 50% green on their upper bodies, not feet wrists or a belt. It signals others using the road that there is a potential risk ahead. I'm not worried about people on bikes, I'm worried about seeing the people on bikes.

    The Blindman

  9. Chris Parsley 2015.02.11

    I have personally spoken with Nancy Rasmussen and I can assure you that HB1214 will be amended. We spoke at length about how clothing color visibility can be affected by a multitude of conditions, vs lights which are visible both day AND night. The amended bill has not been presented yet, so I don't want to step on any toes, but rest assured that yes, a very vocal cycling advocate (ME) has become a go-to expert for our legislators.

  10. mike from iowa 2015.02.11

    Cuts both ways,Blindman. More visibility for bikers gives auto drivers a better target to shoot for. The drivers will always say they didn't see the bike. Never fails.

  11. Lynn 2015.02.11

    Chris Parsley would you please contact me via Cory?

  12. CLCJM 2015.02.11

    Conservative? Small government? Sounds more like big brother! Or Gestapo! Glad, Cory, that you're following all these ridiculous proposed laws. It's hard to believe the arrogance. What next, requiring the homeless to wear coats and gloves in the winter? Then put them in jail if they don't? At least they'd be inside. Course, that's why they wouldn'that require that. It would give the homeless shelter and actually benefit someone.

  13. Lynn 2015.02.11

    It's in the process of being revised/amended thankfully.

  14. Anne Beal 2015.02.11

    It's hard to drive around a blind curve in a no passing zone going 55 mph and swerve to avoid a bicycle if he's wearing black at night. So when the motorist runs over the bicyclist and gives the excuse "I didn't see him" how will the law sort that one out? If the motorist is required to give the cyclist clearance, the cyclist needs to be visible.

  15. larry kurtz 2015.02.11

    Mrs. Beal makes a great point: why anyone would live in South Dakota remains a mystery.

  16. mike from iowa 2015.02.11

    Drivers should know enough to slow down on a blind curve at night just to keep themselves safe,if for no other reason. The state owns wildlife-at least for the purpose of making money selling licenses to shoot them or fine people for killing them out of season,but if you hit one with your vehicle,good luck getting money from the state to pay for the damage their animals do to your vehicle or life. Why not force game animals and livestock that get onto the roadways at night to wear reflective clothes?

  17. Lynn 2015.02.11

    On a lighter note I think of a classic SNL skit with Dan Akroyd & Jane Curtin with Akroyd playing Mr. Mainway selling the Halloween costume "The Invisible Pedestrian" being all black including a black face mask.

    Really it comes down to common sense(please exclude Mike Round's definition of SD Common Sense) in regards to safety and proposed laws.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.11

    In Rapid City you need to wear hot pink just to cross the damn street, and sometimes that isn't enough.

  19. clcjm 2015.02.11

    Mike from Iowa you're so well as funny. Wonder what the stats are on animals getting hit as opposed to people. And if the bikers are supposed to have lights on front and back that can be seen at a distance of 300 ft. and 200 ft., aren't the clothes redundant? Is there any evidence that the clothes increase visibility when paired with lights? And isn't the punishment a little over the top?

  20. leslie 2015.02.11

    whats the diff. between harleys and schwinns? shouldn't all our biker-tourism contain the same safety clothing requirements? not a one of us drivers could truthfully argue they have failed to observe a motorcycle at any speed -whether 20 or 75 mph, where as a car under the same circumstances is plainly visible.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.11

    Chris! I'm glad you have Rep. Rasmussen's ear. Legislators could use some more go-to experts.

  22. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.11

    I support this law.

    Minneapolis has been trading the #1 best city for bicycling in the US with Portland, OR. I ride and I drive my car in this metro area. I sometimes find it difficult to see bikers and I try to watch for them. I cringe when I see dark bikes at night. I'm pretty sure they don't realize how difficult they are to see. Same with pedestrians.

    Frequently in low light conditions I see bikers wearing more than one brightly flashing red light on the back of their bike and I'm really glad they are. Hitting a biker, regardless of how carefully and law abidingly I may be driving, would be an unending nightmare.

    Bikers have a bright headlight on the front, and sometimes it's flashing too. Plus, many of them wear the orange mesh vest that highway workers use.

    My philosophy when I ride is if I don't have or can't afford the necessary lights, helmet and clothing, I'm not going to ride until I do have them.

    Some of you are saying things like, "But I want to wear my favorite shirt," etc. Yeah, that will really matter after you're flattened into the pavement. I'm not going to put too much of the responsibility for my safety on drivers on the phone, watching videos and texting. What I can do, I will.

  23. grudznick 2015.02.11

    I support Ms. Geelsdottir and you others supporting this law. grudznick stamp of approval. I do not like those flashing lights and think more people should ride the light rail so the subsidies that Ms. Geelsdottir and other ex-patriots have to pay with their insaner than most income taxes could be lowered. But I am all about wearing favorite shirts and making bikers be more safe. Wear your hats out there people.

  24. mike from iowa 2015.02.12

    Are bicyclists forced to carry insurance like car drivers? I know animals aren't.

  25. FredDeutsch 2015.02.12

    Chris has the inside track. Rep. Rasmussen's bill will be hoghoused with new and improved language -- and sometime next week I'll make the pitch on the House floor for HB 1030, the DOT's bicycle passing bill.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.12

    Glad to hear it, Rep. Deutsch. Will the public get to see that hoghouse language ahead of hearing to allow us to study and prepare comment for committee?

  27. Fred Deutsch 2015.02.12

    The hog housed bill modifies 13-17-25 by requiring rear bicycle lighting instead of the current law that allows the option of either a reflex mirror or lamp. The idea is that a reflex mirror/reflector is only effective if an approaching car has its lights on - and in my experience, likely ineffective even with that. Seems to me a reasonable safety requirement.

  28. bearcreekbat 2015.02.12

    mfi - great question about insurance. I do know that some homeowner's policy provide liability insurance to cover torts committed by the homeowner while riding a bicycle. I am aware of litigation involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle in which the bicycle rider's home insurance policy settled a tort claim for about $75,000 paid to the motorist due to the rider's conduct.

    For riders without home owners insurance, however, I am not sure what other insurance they might have, perhaps an umbrella policy?

  29. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.12

    Neither MN nor Oregon have any insurance requirements for bicyclists.

  30. Lynn 2015.02.12


    "The hog housed bill modifies 13-17-25 by requiring rear bicycle lighting instead of the current law that allows the option of either a reflex mirror or lamp."

    Why can't the bill state lights front and rear must be mounted and illuminated during dawn, dusk and night time hours?

    When riding during low light conditions I have the most visible lights on the market in combination with reflective wear including on my ankle to make sure I'm seen and reduce the risk of an accident.

    During daylight hours when I'm riding my roadbike I don't have any lights on nor want them.

    Yesterday I found out about a law here in SD requiring a front light must be mounted to your bike at all times when riding the road. Evidently I've been breaking this law since 1989 when it came into effect though I've never been stopped by law enforcement.

    Can this be changed to low light conditions?

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