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New South Dakota Law Gives Cyclists Some Room

New South Dakota law says drivers must give bicyclists a safety buffer of three to six feet, depending on the speed limit on the road. Credit: Jerry Oster
New South Dakota law says drivers must give bicyclists a safety buffer of three to six feet, depending on the speed limit on the road. Credit: Jerry Oster
July 1, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A new law goes into effect today in South Dakota that should make it easier for people to get out and about on their bicycles.

Michael Christensen, an advocacy committee volunteer with the American Heart Association, says the law should make it easier for bikers to use public streets and roads.

"By law, if the speed limit is 35 or less they are required to give a three-foot buffer between the right side of the car and the left side of the bicycle," says Christensen. "If the speed limit is greater than 35, it's a six-foot buffer between them."

The bill was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate in the 2015 session.

Christensen says the safety zone should encourage more people to get out and about.

"It's another piece of a puzzle that encourages cycling, legitimizes it in the minds of drivers," he says. "We want to do that to get some safety, give a safety cushion to the vulnerable road users that are on bicycles."

Christensen says the ultimate goal is to help people use their bicycles to get some exercise instead of automatically jumping in the car for short trips.

"Instead of getting in that car and going two miles to the grocery store, it may be a law like this can encourage a few more people to get on a bike and go to the grocery store and try that, and see how they like that," says Christensen.

A recent study found that 43 percent of children who live within a mile of school are driven, an easy distance for walking and bicycling if conditions are safe.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD