HB 1030, The passing of bicycles, moves to the Senate

by Tony Helland

HB 1030, which aims to codify a safe passing distance between automobiles and bicycles, is gaining momentum as it moves through the Capitol’s chambers. The House Transportation Committee amended the original bill twice and the outcome has shown unanimous support. HB 1030 has passed in House committee as well as the full House. It is currently in the Senate Transportation committee

Amendment 1030fa, as described by Rep. Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) in the House Transportation committee, makes the distinction between roads with a posted speed of 35 MPH and lower and those roadways with higher posted speed limits. At lower speeds, the amended bill mandates a three-foot separation between the passing automobile and the bicyclist. At higher speeds, above 35 MPH, a six foot separation would be required. This distinction makes clear the increased danger for bicyclists that comes with higher automobile speeds.

This amendment also clears up some confusion around the issue of passing. 1030fa allows the passing vehicle to partially cross the center or dividing line between lanes of a roadway in order to safely pass a bicyclist. This was a point of both concern and confusion when the bill was originally brought up for committee discussion in January. 1030fa also includes the stipulation that bicyclists may not pass a vehicle to the right when that vehicle is signaling to make a right turn. This is some common sense reasoning that I can only hope is followed by cyclists.

The amended bill passed the House Transportation committee by a vote of 11-0. It was also heartily supported by the Department of Transportation, the South Dakota Highway Patrol, and the bicycling community.

HB 1030 also passed on the House floor by a vote of 53-16. Rep. Deutsch (R-4/Florence) carried the bill on the floor. He reiterated the need for this bill as a means to make biking safer on South Dakota’s roadways. Since 2002, 1,155 injuries and four deaths have occurred in automobile vs. bicycle incidents. This bill aims to reduce that statistic while not imposing an additional burden on law enforcement. 1030 would reduce the number of instances law enforcement officers respond to injured or deceased persons in bicycle v. car accidents by way of public awareness, claims Deutsch. That is really what this bill is about. Any citations handed out would be from the observation of obvious violation and would not unduly burden law enforcement.

A voice of opposition came from Rep. Verchio (R-30/Hill City). He claimed that the bill placed the onus of responsibility solely on the shoulders of automobile drivers. The bill could be a disservice to the motoring community in the state, especially on those narrow roads that crisscross the Black Hills, claims Verchio. This is an argument that pits the slow bicycler against the onslaught of cars needing to reach top speed. The state statistics paint a much more dangerous picture from the biker’s perspective. State and federal statutes consider bicycles as any other vehicle on the road. This state also values the shared use of roads between bicycles and automobiles. To Rep. Verchio, bicyclists should pull off the road and let traffic pass, lessening the wait time for drivers needing to pass. This thinking reduces that fair, shared road ethic encompassed in state and federal thinking. Despite the opposition, HB 1030 sailed through the House, 53-16, on it’s way to the Senate.

HB 1030 is currently awaiting discussion in the Senate Transportation committee.

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