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Bicycle Community Eyeing Northeast Iowa Court Case

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VINTON, Iowa--The number of bicyclists on Iowa roads has been increasing for years,
and with that increase comes the unfortunate risk of accidents, "the physics are against us. if we get hit we are going to be killed," said Dan Baldi, manager of the Des Moines Bicycle Collective.

This past march Matt Phippen of Vinton, was almost a victim himself.  "We were coming into town and this white Dodge passed real close and when he got around me he tromped on it and sprayed diesel smoke all over the place," he said.
Matt, who says he always has a Go-Pro video camera on his bike, used it to file a report with the Benton County Sheriff's Office who cited Steven Payne with passing on a double line.  Payne is contesting the incident, but police say he's lucky that was his only citation.

Des Moines Police Department Sergeant Scott Raudabaugh said, "State code says somebody cannot drive too close to, or unreasonably close or steer towards somebody on a bicycle."  He says it's a ticket that carries a $250 dollar fine and nearly $400 after court fees and a surcharge.
"It's a law that's come about as a result of collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles," said Sgt. Raudabaugh.

Matt's incident caught the attention of a number of organizations including the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Des Moines Cicycle Collective.
When looking at the video, Baldi said, "Looks like the truck hit the gas and it doesn't look like there was a reason to hit the gas, and there didn't appear to be any oncoming traffic that he needed to cut over so fast."

Bicyclists say  incidents like what happened to Matt are far too common.  Baldi said, "I think a lot of those people who are buzzing bicyclists also have bikes and they also have kids and those kids could be killed and maimed.  Why would you do that to someone else when that could be your own son or daughter?"

Matt's case could be another important stepping stone of protection for bicyclists in the state of Iowa.  Matt hopes it makes everyone more cautious of bicyclists on the roads and said, "Somebody get's hit and things change.  I don't feel like we need to wait until then.  Let's start changing things now and trying to find a way to make that possible."

A ruling in the case was supposed to be decided Wednesday, September 2 but the judge delayed a decision saying there was a need for more time.  The judge did not say when they plan to rule.  Steve Payne's attorney, Christina Shriver, refused to comment.

Iowa law does not specifically define just how close drivers can be to bicyclists on the roads.