The Iowa Code elevates all sorts of interests above cyclists’ interest in not being mowed down by drivers.
July will mark 50 years since the idea that became the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa was hatched (the first ride was actually in late August). But despite half a century of weeklong celebrations of bicycle recreation, and the state as a whole, Iowa’s laws remain less friendly to bicyclists than many others states’.
The Iowa Code elevates all sorts of interests above cyclists’ interest in not being mowed down by drivers. A driver who only looks at a phone before a crash, for instance, instead of manipulating its controls, is not criminally liable under the distracted driving law. Penalties that apply after severe crashes involving a pedestrian or a four-way stop do not apply to the same crash involving a bicyclist. Confusion persists about how much responsibility drivers have to give bicyclists space on a road.
Iowa has made strides in setting aside spaces for cyclists, including networks of trails in many parts of the state and dedicated lanes in some cities. That’s great, and each advance is a boon for safety. But the availability of such avenues does not change cyclists’ right to use most roads or motorists’ responsibility to be aware of their surroundings. The trails were built to promote and facilitate cycling, not to segregate it from driving.