Cyclist Says His Iowa Court Case Sends the Wrong Message Towards Bicycling Rights

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VINTON, Iowa–It was a case that many within the Iowa cycling community felt could help move bicycling rights forward.
“It’s a slam dunk, you’ve got video coming and going.” But on September 14th when Benton County Magistrate Victor Vander Way saw the same video of a pickup truck passing a bicyclist on a double line, he surprised them all ruling in the motorist’s favor.
Des Moines attorney and avid cyclist, Kim West, called it a “Slap in the face at best.  It’s a kick in the butt more realistically.”

This past March Matt Phippen and two others were riding along a paved two lane highway near Vinton when Phippen says a white Dodge pickup truck driven by Steven Payne with a diesel engine passed the bicyclists extremely close and then accelerated blowing black smoke in their paths.
Phippen said,  “I feel it should have gone our way. I feel that the way he ruled basically pulled some rights of cyclists away to be honest.”

Phippen who recorded the event on a camera he keeps on during rides, pressed charges.  The Benton County Sheriff’s Office cited Payne with passing on a double line which Payne contested and won.  Phippen believes the ruling sends the wrong message.  “It tells motorists now that there is nothing they’ll get in trouble for because a judge just ruled in favor of a motorist and that is just wrong.”

Benton County court documents say Vander Way believes there are “instances where crossing a solid yellow line is justified for the reason that such driving may actually enhance public safety.” Something Kim West says is not a part of state law.  “There’s nothing in the Iowa code section 321-3043 that allows for any exceptions that says whether an act is or is not automatically a violation.  It doesn’t say that.”

In closing, the Magistrate stated that to “find the defendant guilty it would make the rights of cyclists paramount to the rights of those who drive motor vehicles.”  West disagreed and said, “It wouldn’t make it paramount it puts them where they belong, on an even basis.”

The ruling leaves cyclists like Phippen and West feeling as though they are pedaling an uphill battle.  West said,”Iowa has a long way to go before people can ride their bikes on streets and highways, where they have the perfect right to be, and not be worried that this may be the last day of their life.”

Phippen says he does not believe he will appeal the Magistrate’s ruling.

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