It has come to our attention that the Waterloo City Council is considering an amendment to the city ordinances regarding bicycle operations. The staff and boards of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Iowa Bicycling Action Fund have reviewed the ordinance. We found much to like in the proposed ordinance. Yet, we regret that we cannot endorse the proposed ordinance because of three key passages. In addition, there are several passages that should be addressed by making minor changes before final passage.
We urge you to consider the following issues:
Issue 1: 6-2-7: PLACE OF RIDING (C): Slow Moving Bicyclists
Iowa Code §321.297 addresses this much differently than the proposed ordinance. Bicyclists (and other traffic) traveling at a speed less than normal traffic should operate in the right lane OR as far to the right as practicable. By splitting these concepts into passage A and C, we lose the word “OR” as contained in §321.297. In addition, the word practical is very different from practicable. Practicable means the bicyclists should ride as close to the right side of the road as to be successful or able to ride. We suggest combining these two sections with an OR in section A similar to Iowa Code.
Issue 2: 6-2-12: MOTORISTS: B. Separation from Bicycles
Iowa Code §321.299 should be the standard for any road user to pass. We believe changing lanes is a safer approach that is easier for motorists to follow, easier to teach to new drivers, and easier for police to enforce. A recent study by the Cato Institute has revealed three foot passing laws may have decreased the passing distance for some users and have not improved crash statistics. We would like to point out in section 6-2-10: PASSING of the proposed ordinance requires bicyclists to change lanes before passing other vehicles. We suggest using the change lanes to pass language in our model ordinance.
Issue 3: 6-2-1: DEFINITIONS: 2. Electric Bicycles
We don’t understand why operators of an electric bicycle must be 15 years of age. Operators of a moped and operators of an auto with a school permit can be 14 years old. We suggest striking this passage or only applying to Class III e-bikes.
There are more minor language issues we have with the proposed ordinance. These sections may be better if amended.
In section 6-2-1: DEFINITIONS and 6-2-3: RULES FOR RIDING have references to orange flags. While we understand the intention of safety, we are unaware of the efficacy of this requirement. In addition, 6-2-3: RULES FOR RIDING speaks to an ASTM requirement for towing accessories. Again, we understand the safety intentions, but think this matter isn’t criminal and more likely a civil matter in the event of a crash. Finally, there is some confusion in this passage about having to have a flag AND a light or reflector.
6-2-5: BICYCLE EQUIPMENT: A. Lights and Reflectors
Iowa Code §321.384 requires a discernable distance of 500’. The proposed ordinance is less restrictive at 300’.
The proposed ordinance also strikes a red reflector option in lieu of a light. Iowa Code §321.384 allows for a reflector option. We believe a reflector should be included as an option.
Also, the body attachments section seems confusing about what it is trying to accomplish and it still requires a reflector despite that option being struck from the proposed ordinance.
There is a lot to applaud in the ordinance. We think the ordinance excels with expanding the definitions of bicycles and e-bicycles; definitions of bicycle lanes; creation of a fix-it-ticket in light violations; addresses malfunctions lights; expands the exceptions for riding to the right; creates good rules around use of bike lanes; and provides protect to bicyclists from door zones, driving too close, and throwing objects at bicyclists.
In all, we think this ordinance is a vast improvement on the current ordinance. However, we cannot endorse this entire proposal due to the three issues outlined above. We continue to be willing to serve as a resource for improving the bicycle laws, to improve safety, and increase the use of bicycles in Waterloo. We urge amendment of the proposal to obtain our endorsement.