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.
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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.