One of the bills we are working on, House File 2189, is an important bill will make consistent penalties between fatal motor vehicle and bicycle crashes. There is a tragic story behind it.
Sylvia Clark-Hansen just turned 19 in September of 2017. Sylvia had struggled issues in her life but was living independently in an apartment, and working at a nearby job. She and her family had an agreement that driving was not a safe option for her, so she rode her bicycle for transportation.
Shortly before 6 AM on October 19, 2017, while riding her bicycle to work, Sylvia was struck by a motor vehicle from behind. Her route to work was on a short stretch of highway on the edge of town where there were no pavement shoulders, but it was the only route to her job. Her grandmother had just given her bicycle lights for her birthday which she was using at the time of the crash. She had a light-colored backpack on. Several other vehicles passed without incident. Several days later, Sylvia was removed from life support and died.
The driver pleads guilty to Iowa Code 321.281(1) “Steering unreasonable close to a bicyclist.” and receives a $65 fine. Normally, 321.281(1) carries a $250 scheduled fine. A similar charge, like 321.299 “Overtaking a vehicle.” carries a $500 fine and 90-day license revocation if a serious injury occurs and a $1,000 fine and 180-day license revocation if the crash results in a fatality.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (IA-73) filed HF2189 in response to the Hansen tragedy. He spoke passionately at the subcommittee hearing about how drivers should have accountability and traffic laws should be consistent. HF2189 adds the “Steering unreasonably close to a bicyclist” to the list of enhanced penalties in the Iowa Code to create consistent penalties. This isn’t a special penalty for motorists that hit bicyclists. Motorists would face the same penalty if they cause the fatality of another motorist or pedestrian.
We’ve reached the first deadline of this year’s legislative session -- the first funnel deadline. The legislature will only work on bills that have been passed by one standing committee. There were 12 bills that we were monitoring. As of the funnel deadline, 9 of 12 bills remain viable for passage by the legislature. This is a record-breaking year for our legislative efforts.
There is a long way to go before these bills become law. The first funnel deadline is like the first quarter. We still need to pass on the floor of either the Iowa Senate or House where the bill originated. Then the bill is sent to the opposite chamber where the committee process starts over. If the bill passes in the opposite chamber then it is sent to the governor for a signature or veto.
HF2189 on enhanced penalties for bicycle crashes has a strong chance to become law, but it is going to take a lot of work. We need people to answer the action alerts and contact their legislators. We need people to attend legislative forms to talk with their legislators in person. And, we need donations to fund our work.
We budget around $20,000 each legislative session for our team of contract lobbyists, our software that tracks bills and connects you with your legislators, and staff time at the Capitol. Your donation of any amount can help us create better bicycle laws for Iowa.
HF2189 may eligible at the funnel deadline, but we are not taking this bill or any of our other bills for granted. In order to become law, we need to work hard, connect with our legislators, and make our case that this law will make Iowa a better place. Your support of our work is crucial to getting this bill to the governor’s desk for a signature.