Image by richardmasoner via FlickrFrom the Iowa Bicycle Coalition...
Iowa has risen to number six in the bicycle friendly state rankings by the League of American Bicyclists. The second annual ranking of Bicycle Friendly States scores the 50 states on a 75-item questionnaire that evaluates a state’s commitment to bicycling and covers six key areas: legislation, policies and programs, infrastructure, education and encouragement, evaluation and planning, and enforcement.
In addition to being the six on the Bicycle Friendly State list, Iowa also has it's first Bicycle Friendly Community. Cedar Falls was awarded a Bicycle Friendly Community Bronze Level Award. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Active Transportation Alliance has completed work in Cedar Falls to create 53 miles of bike routes and bike lanes in addition an existing world-class trail system.
League President Andy Clarke highlighted that "several states dramatically improved their ranking by updating their traffic codes, increasing the level of funding for bicycle improvements, implementing education programs aimed at cyclists and motorists, getting organized and hosting their first statewide bicycling conferences and events."
“We've always known Iowa is a great place to ride a bicycle,” explains Mark Wyatt, Executive Director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a state-wide bicycle advocacy organization. Iowa received a high mark in the education category. Wyatt says “efforts like the Iowa Bicycle Summit, Safe Routes to School Program, and Share the Road campaigns that brought Iowa up higher in the rankings”
Iowa was also ranked high in enforcement, which considered bicycle law training police officers receive at academy and recent advances or red light cameras. “We still have issues with how bicycle crashes are enforced,” Wyatt states citing a recent Des Moines bike crash where the driver was not cited by determined to be at fault.
Iowa's legislation ranking is lower compared to other states. “We need some clarity in the Iowa Code for bicycles.” Iowa gives bicycles the same rights and duties as drivers of vehicles according to the Iowa Code. “15 states have laws that require a safe passing distance of bicycles.” according to Wyatt, “Wisconsin has had a safe passing law since 1973.” The Iowa Legislature considered a bike safety bill this year and discussions are underway for the Iowa House to take up the issue during the next session.
The Bicycle Friendly State program is revolutionizing the way states evaluate their quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress and work toward improving their bicycle-friendliness. The rankings are used to create momentum amongst states and communities to continue to become more bicycle friendly.
“State policies and programs have a dramatic impact on the bicycle-friendliness of communities and we are thrilled to see a marked improvement since the League first ranked states last fall,” stated Clarke. “This year we are also recognizing several states for their impressive initiatives to improve conditions for bicyclists, and the timing could not be better for doing that: for energy, environment, and health benefits as well as traffic improvements.”