Nov 21, 2022 - News

Des Moines' 'model' metro bike ordinance is tabled

A photo of a bike.

A cyclist along a downtown Des Moines street in 2016. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

A regional transportation group has indefinitely tabled a vote on whether to recommend a bicycle safety ordinance to Des Moines area governments.

  • Concerns about possible legislative pushback and metro opposition put the plan on pause last month.

Why it matters: Central Iowa's network of recreational trails is growing.

  • Enhanced safety ordinances can save lives, advocates behind the model ordinance contend.

Catch up fast: The recommendations were developed over the last year through the Central Iowa Bicycle and Pedestrian Roundtable.

  • For example, state law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. The ordinance would include bikes.
  • Law enforcement would also have more flexibility to issue 72-hour fix-it notices rather than to fine bikers for light or reflector violations.
  • The group's members work with multiple central Iowa transportation groups, including the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

Zoom in: The model ordinance is intended to help local governments regulate non-vehicular travel in areas of the law where there is limited state or federal regulation.

  • If adopted, it would make it easier to enforce safe-passing or distance laws and more clearly define technologies like E-bikes that have developed in recent years.

What they're saying: State lawmakers could view the ordinance as an overreach and take steps to block it, West Des Moines Mayor Russ Trimble warned MPO members in a meeting last month.

  • And if some local communities decline to pass the ordinance, it could leave a patchwork of unequal rules throughout the metro, Trimble said before the MPO agreed to table the plan.

State of play: The ordinance is effectively in a "wait and see position" to determine if state level changes can be made, Gunnar Olson, a spokesperson for the MPO told Axios last week.

  • The policy could be resurrected but there's currently no timeline for that to happen, Olson said.

Of note: MPO recommendations are generally considered to be a regional best practice.

  • Local governments could adopt the ordinance without the MPO's nod.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more