New law makes roads safer for bicyclists

March 29th, 2017    Author: Administrator    Filed Under: News

By Megan Alley

Sun staff

A new law went into effect on March 21 that requires motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing.

On March 21, 2017, a new law aimed at protecting bicyclists, went into effect that requires motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing.

“For years, Ohio has suffered an unacceptable and avoidable number of bicycling injuries and fatalities on our roadways. The cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and 26 states all have adopted legislation requiring motorists to give cyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing, and today that protection has been extended to all Ohioans,” Jennifer Miller, director of the Sierra Club’s Ohio Chapter, an organization that lobbied for passage of the law, said in a press statement.

House Bill 154 received bipartisan support in both the State House and Senate.

Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law in December 2016.

“We thank the Legislature and Governor Kasich for passing a common sense, no-cost rule that makes Ohio’s roadways safer for everyone,” Miller said.

She continued by saying, “The ‘Three Foot Rule’ will save lives and encourage Ohioans to choose a safe, cheap, healthy, and clean mode of alternative transportation.”

The law aims to prevent collisions between bicyclists and motor vehicles; allows bicyclists to safely navigate around hazards in the street or bicycle lane; gives young and less experienced bicyclists space to navigate obstacles and avoid wind shear caused by large motor vehicles; and encourages and embolden all Ohioans to bicycle for work, school and recreation, without fear of passing motorists; according to the statement.

Queen City Bike and the Ohio Bike Federation also lobbied for the law’s passage.

“The passage of the three feet legislation will help make our streets and roads safer for all users,” Frank Henson, president of Queen City Bike and the chair of Tri-State Trails, said in an email.

Henson continued, “Having the three foot law helps…maybe not in writing tickets, but more so in promoting cycling and giving everyone an awareness that, ‘Hey, these folks are allowed to be out there. Give them a few feet to pass.’”

He added, “Passing bicyclists by providing three feet is the minimum distance. More is always better.”

The Ohio Bicycle Federation’s Chuck Smith also shared his thoughts on the new law.

“It took us in the Ohio Bicycle Federation eight years to make the three foot law in Ohio, with the help of countless others; it was worth it,” he said in an email. “We are now working to educate motorists.

He added, “These actions will save lives.”

Ohio joins 26 other states and Washington, D.C. that have adopted the “Three Foot Rule,” including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The law also permits vehicles to move through intersections with faulty or unresponsive traffic signals, after first stopping and yielding the right-of-way to oncoming traffic, according to the press statement.

In early 2016, Michael Prater, of Anderson Township, died after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle down state Route 52.

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One Response to “New law makes roads safer for bicyclists”

  1. Steve Magas says:

    We started working on a Three Foot law in 2012/2013. When it was introduced we found no direct “opposition” but when we testified to the committee in 2013 it was clear that there was some unspoken resistance. Thankfully, the OBF kept pushing. The bill was reintroduced, new approaches were taken, some compromise was accomplished and… finally… bill passed the House, the Senate and was signed by the governor.

    A Three Foot Law is not about “tickets” but about education. The Ohio legislature has, once again, confirmed that people are allowed to operate a bicycle on Ohio roadways – now the legislature has recognized that it is important to keep cars away from cyclists…

    We know that crashes between cars and bicycles are rare. In fact, Ohio is one of the very safest “big” states for cycling. We have millions of cyclists riding 100s of millions of miles in Ohio each year, yet we have very few car/bike crashes [around 1,500/yr] – fatal crashes very rare [15-16 per year throughout the state]. However, we also know that when cars and bicycles DO tangle, the likelihood of the cyclist being injured is significant [80+%]. Creating this three foot safety cushion around the cyclist will provide critical space between the two ton bowling ball and the 150 lb cyclist. The Three Foot law should help motorists understand that cyclists ARE permitted on just about every road in Ohio and that motorists should give cyclists space when passing.

    Of course, cyclists must understand and perform their duties and responsibilities under the law as well. This means riding WITH [never against] traffic, obeying stop signs and red lights, and taking a reasonable lane position. However, when a cyclist fails to obey the law they only put themselves in danger – when a motorist runs a stop sign or red light the risk of death to others in the area is very high – this is why the focus of traffic law enforcement is on those who drive two ton rolling objects and not on those who operate 20 pound sticks of metal!

    Cycling advocates worked hard to get the Three Foot Law passed. It is a nice addition to the 2006 Better Bicycling Bill, which provided several important changes to Ohio’s “Bike Law.” With the cycling “season” now upon us, we look forward to a FUN and SAFE 2017!

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