Wednesday, February 01, 2006

HB1190 – The Drunk Cyclist Bill

Let’s say you’re on the Tour deKota. You get to Smalltown, South Dakota and want something to eat. You walk in to the main street café and there are 13 guys at the counter drinking coffee and talking about how it’s not fair that Ed, the town drunk is in the pen. Last week he got busted for the fourth time riding his bike home from the bar down the street. It’s only two blocks away for crissakes!

The more they talk the more serious they get and they realize that if bicycles weren’t vehicles then DUI laws wouldn’t apply. Then boom, they make it so, and every state law that applies to how one vehicle should respond to another vehicle on the road no longer applies to how one vehicle should respond to you on your bike. No legal need to wait for you to clear an intersection before departing a stop sign. No legal requirement to give you space after passing you on the highway.

You sense that something is wrong with that, but you’re also confused. With great fear and trepidation, you approach the group of 13 and ask, “Well, umm, I just want to know, like, if you do this I’m, you know, still going to be able to ride my bike on the road and stuff, right?” (Representative Al Koistinen from Codington County. Seriously Al, thank you. You were the first to ask the right question.)

They look at your cleated feet, your padded shorts, the beer cooler on your head. They look at each other and smile knowingly. “Sure, they respond. Well you know, you might have guys legally blowing stop signs and all that, but hell, your people want that anyway.” And then they turn around and go about their business of getting the town drunk out of jail.

If you want to hear a non-fiction version of this story please listen to the House Transportation Committee discuss HB1190 on the South Dakota Public Broadcasting website. It was discussed January 25, the 11th Legislative Day.

It’s more like my story than you would believe and it’s only 8 minutes long – the guys in the café didn’t even have time to finish their first cup of coffee.

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