Summer is upon us, and many area residents will take to the roads on two wheels as opposed to four. With RAGBRAI bringing an estimated ten to fifteen thousand riders to the area, there are many guidelines drivers should remember.
Iowa state law states that bicycle riders have the right to be on public roadways. According to the law, Iowa Code 321.299, cyclists are able to use streets and roads in the same manner as a motor vehicle. While travelling on the road as a vehicle, cyclists are subject to the same laws and regulations as other motor vehicles.
Stop signs and traffic signals must be observed. Muscatine County Sheriff CJ Ryan explains, “Bike riders can be written a traffic ticket, the same as any motorist, for running a stop sign or not observing the light.”
The Iowa Driver’s Manual addresses the issue of sharing the road. “When passing a bicycle rider, pass as if the cyclist were a vehicle and move into the other lane.”
According to Sheriff Ryan, a lot of safety issues can be solved by one simple rule of thumb: “If there is not room to pass a vehicle, there is not room to pass a bicycle.”
The safest way for a motorist to pass a bicycle is to pass on the left-hand side of the road or an adjacent travel lane if there is no oncoming traffic. Drivers involved in a collision as a result of failing to maintain a safe and reasonable distance face a fine up to $250 (Iowa Code 321.281). Drivers involved in a collision resulting in an injury face a fine up to $500 and a possible 90-day license revocation. Drivers involved in collision with a bicyclist resulting in a fatality as a result of unsafe passing can face a fine up to $1000 and a 180-day license revocation (321.299). In addition, the Iowa DOT may administratively revoke a driver’s license for one year.
Greg Harper has been riding Iowa roads for almost 40 years. He says the most important thing for cyclists to remember is to ride smart. “Ride smart, ride aware. I never wear headphones, so I can hear traffic.”
When asked what advice he has for other riders, Harper says, “I ride in the right tire track, or close to the right edge, and I do not claim the entire road. Most importantly, I watch traffic and try to be as predictable as possible.”
Harper says when riding in a group, riders need to be aware of how traffic is moving around them. “Try to think as a bicyclist and also as a motorist. Be courteous and travel single-file when traffic is coming from behind.” He also encourages cyclists to wear bright-colored clothing to be more visible.