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Advocates Say Biking Bill Could Be Hazardous, Hurt Tourism

Bike safety groups want South Dakota lawmakers to consider new safety rules for all modes of transportation, not just cars. (iStockphoto)
Bike safety groups want South Dakota lawmakers to consider new safety rules for all modes of transportation, not just cars. (iStockphoto)
January 28, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. – Some South Dakota bicyclists could face 30 days in jail and a $500 fine if a bill being considered today becomes law.

The state's House Transportation Committee is scheduled to look over HB 1073. It would require that slow moving riders get off their bikes to make room for faster vehicles on certain no-passing-zone roadways.

Bike safety advocates such as Tony Helland, an organizer with Dakota Rural Action, say this actually would make some roads less safe for bikers.

"If you're out in a rural area and you're a biker standing in the middle of nowhere to let larger vehicles pass by, that in itself is a safety danger,” he stresses. “If this is a safety issue, let's talk about it, but let's bring all of the people to the table equally."

The bill has the support of at least 11 South Dakota lawmakers in the House and three in the Senate.

Critics say it's a thinly veiled attempt to criminalize bike riding on highways.

Helland argues that not only would the bill make bike travel dangerous, it could end up hurting tourism in certain parts of the state.

He says places such as the Black Hills near Rapid City heavily promote biking tours to bring dollars into the area.

"I don't know anybody, myself included, that would want to go out and rent a bike in the Black Hills to go tour and have to pull off every few minutes for a car that needs to get by me,” he states. “That doesn't scream 'great tourism' to me."

Instead, biking advocates point to solutions such as the Complete Streets project, championed by Sioux Falls officials last summer.

That project is part of a national effort in about 200 cities and would add street protections for several modes of transportation, not just cars.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD