Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bursting The Bubble

Local news reports that the Iowa legislature is trying to make our streets safer for bicycles with a "five foot bubble" law. In short, motorists would be forced to give cyclists a five foot berth when passing or face a "misdemeanor fine of up to $35" which would "grow to $1,000 if the driver kills someone."

Huh. I feel safer already. Up to $35 for a brush-back, and a whopping four figures if I'm actually snuffed out. I'm sure my widow will applaud the courage of the Iowa legislature for that one.

And assuming this genius piece of legislation gets signed, does anyone really expect a police officer to actually pull someone over and levy that "up to $35" fine when someone penetrates my five foot bubble? I would need my own police escort through downtown to pull over... well, just about every car in sight.

I credit our lawmakers for having their hearts in the right place, but the bubble concept just seems misguided. Here's my proposal instead: Enforce the laws that already exist. The vehicular code says I'm just that -- a vehicle, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Force car drivers to treat me as such, and fine them when they don't. Get too close? Knock me over because you're too busy text messaging? That's not an "oopsie." That's reckless driving. And -- heaven forbid -- if you kill me, that's vehicular manslaughter, plain and simple.

If I wanted to be in a bubble, I'd drive a car.

1 comment:

Steve Fuller said...

I wrote Mark Wyatt at IBC about this bill earlier this week. I agree with you on all fronts on this. However, one thing that isn't getting a lot of press because it's not buzzword friendly. Here is Mark's reply to me

"Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities in Iowa Code 321.234, but because of a definition in 321.1(90)(a) are not vehicles. That definition says a vehicle cannot be human powered.

So when the O'Brien County Attorney attempted to charge the driver that killed Randy Van Zee with failure to safely overtake a vehicle, he felt he could not bring forth that charge because of the definition in 321.1.

So in instances of the Iowa Code where vehicle is listed, we are inserting "or bicycle" to assure that definition doesn't prohibit appropriate charges. The 5' passing law also applies to all vehicles, not just bicyclists. Finally, the door zone law applies to all vehicles, not just bicyclists.

The staff at the Attorney General's office agree the definition leaves bicyclists in a grey area. The Department of Public Safety thinks many of the provisions are positive changes and even felt the 5' passing law gives law enforcement more specificity."