- Ohio Legislature
Enact state-wide three foot passing law for bicycles
We propose that the traffic laws be amended to improve safety for cyclists on Ohio roadways. In particular, we propose that the passing law include the provision that when overtaking a bicycle, the safe passing distance shall be not less than three feet.
The reasons for this change are:
· Cyclists require four feet of operating space on the roadway for safety.
· Cyclists riding on the right side of the travel lane may need to move further left unexpectedly when they encounter potholes, debris, drain grates, metal plates, or other obstacles in their path. Motorists need to provide additional lateral passing distance in the event that a cyclist needs to avoid obstacles in their path.
· Cyclists (in particular young or less experienced cyclists) may lose control when passed too closely. Larger vehicles at higher speeds may generate a wind gust which causes cyclists to lose control.
· The cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo have already adopted three foot passing laws.
And we propose that the definition of a malfunctioning signal include those which fail to detect a bicycle, so that a cyclist may cautiously and lawfully treat the signal as a stop sign.
- Ohio Legislature
Dear Ohio House Representatives and Senators,
The Ohio Bicycle Federation requests that the Ohio Legislature pass House Bill 154/Senate Bill 192 to make changes to traffic laws to improve safety for cyclists on Ohio roadways. The bill includes the provision that when a motorist overtakes a cyclist, the safe passing distance shall be not less than three feet.
The reasons for SB 192 are:
• Cyclists riding on the right side of the travel lane may need to move further left unexpectedly when they encounter potholes, debris, drainage grates or other obstacles in their path, and motorists should provide additional lateral passing distance for them to do so.
• Cyclists (in particular young or less experienced cyclists) may lose control when passed too closely, especially by larger vehicles at higher speeds, which may generate a wind gust.
• National studies of crash reports show that approximately 9.4% of crashes involving cars and bikes are motorist overtaking or sideswipe crashes.
• HB 154/SB 192, if added to Ohio law, will lead to improved justice for victims of reckless driving because the defense would be required to establish that the victim swerved more than the minimum clearance distance to have caused the crash.
• Similar provisions have been enacted in 26 other states (AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, KS, LA, ME, MD, MN, MS, NB, NV, NH, OK, PA, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WI, WY) and DC.
• Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo have already adopted three foot passing laws. HB 154/SB 192 would provide uniformity in our traffic law throughout the state.
• The Ohio Digest of Motor Vehicle Laws, the guidebook for new drivers, already recommends that motorists provide at least 3’ clearance when passing cyclists.
• An Ohio highway patrol officer stated, “Currently officers use their best judgment on what they consider to be safe passing distance. Having a specific measurement will give officers a benchmark for future violations.” Police officers in Texas have enforced the three foot law by observing how closely motorists pass bike patrol officers.
How can motorists can provide a three foot passing distance on a narrow lane or road? Many urban roads have multiple lanes or a center turn lane, which can be used to change lanes to pass cyclists. In rural areas, motorists may be delayed a few seconds until it is safe to pass a cyclist. It is permissible to cross the solid yellow line to pass slow moving vehicles in Ohio, if the slower vehicle is going less than half the posted speed, the overtaking vehicle does not exceed the speed limit and there is sufficient clear sight distance to pass safely (ORC 4511.31). This law applies to passing all slow moving vehicles, including Amish buggies and farm machinery.
Why should Ohio legislators enact a three foot passing law? Thousands of Ohio citizens use their bicycles as an efficient, affordable, environmental-friendly and healthy way to travel. An online petition for this proposal has received over 3000 signatures.
Ohio children are educated and encouraged to ride bicycles to school through the ODOT sponsored Safe Routes to School program. Ohio cities are encouraging bicycle travel by providing infrastructure to support it, such as roadway improvements to accommodate cyclists, bicycle maps defining safe routes, bicycle parking and bike share programs. Despite these education, encouragement and engineering improvements, many cyclists are afraid to bicycle on roadways for fear of being seriously injured or killed in a collision with an automobile. 50 to 65% of parents identify volume and speed of traffic as a deterrent to allowing their children to walk or bike to school. We owe it to our children’s health to provide safe walking and biking environments to counteract a tripling of obesity rates in 20 years.
House Bill 154/Senate Bill 192 would also permit vehicles to proceed through intersections after stopping and yielding right-of-way when not detected by signal detectors. Many traffic signals are triggered by buried wires, which do not always detect bicycles and motorcycles. ODOT provides a service number to call to identify the jurisdiction of the signal and Ohio cyclists are reporting these malfunctioning signals to request that the sensitivity to be adjusted. But even when a signal is adjusted, the cyclist must place his or her bicycle directly over the buried wire, which is sometimes difficult to locate if the street has been resurfaced. Failure to detect a vehicle should be considered a malfunction in ORC 4511.132.
The American Motorcyclist Association joins us in supporting SB 192 because Ohio’s motorcyclists, like cyclists, are often not detected at intersections with buried wire detectors.
For these reasons, we strongly urge this committee to vote in favor of House Bill 154/Senate Bill 192, which will improve safety for cyclists on Ohio roadways at no cost, enhancing our quality of life and improving the physical fitness of Ohioans young and old.
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