The Demise of SB 113, the Good Biking Bill:

by Tony Helland

This past Wednesday the Senate Transportation Committee killed the second of two bicycling bills this session. The committee deferred SB 113 to the nonexistent 41st legislative day, where it will reside with the first biking bill – that get-off-your-bike bill HB 1073. SB 113 was different, though. It was a thoughtful bill of inclusion and sharing the road. The bill sought to revise state law to give bicyclists the right hand lane of travel. This would have moved the cyclists out of the curbside danger zone so filled with Midwestern-sized potholes and parked automobiles and put them safely where all road users are visible: in the lane! In giving cyclists that lane of travel SB 113 also gave them the responsibility to move over to the right to let those faster vehicles pass safely. The bill seemed to be building on the previous session’s successful bicycling passing legislation. But the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison), requested that the bill be deferred with good reason.

In speaking on SB 113 before the committee, Sen. Parsley made the case for needed dialogue between all groups using the road. Specifically, he called upon bicyclists, the trucking industry, the South Dakota Safety Council, and the American Heart Association to turn this discussion toward education. Could this be the start of a larger public awareness/safety campaign?

It was the earlier defeat of HB 1073 that started that discussion, where there was an opinion that education needed to come before further legislation. Bicycles are vehicles of the road with the legal ability to be there. But from where we stand, even with last year’s successful bicycle passing legislation, there is a continued need for education of our shared roads. No one group of users bears that responsibility, either, as all should have a seat at the table. That need for discussion and awareness lead the Senator to request that SB 113 be deferred. It is my hope that one of those groups or at least the Department of Transportation takes the lead on that discussion and push for public awareness.

Further legislation of roadway bicycling is not going to solve the the issues between autos and bikes. It is dialogue and education that will propel the issue toward good solutions. For bicyclists, it is being more conscientious of their place on the road as well as their actions and behavior as road users. For vehicles, it it the awareness that bicycles have equal access to the road. From there education, awareness, and dialogue can begin. As Senator Hunhoff stated, “ We went for many years in the legislature without even mentioning the word bicycle and it’s clearly a feature of our transportation.” I hope that the discussion in the next year will lead toward further awareness so when these issues are taken up in future sessions the word ‘bicycle’ isn’t again tied to bad legislation.

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