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.
The Ohio Bicycle Federation requests that the Ohio Legislature pass House Bill 154 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 this amendment are:
· Cyclists riding on the right side of the travel lane may need to move further left unexpectedly when they encounter potholes, debris, drain 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. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that U.S. cyclist deaths increased by 16% from 2010 to 2012.
· This provision, 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 22 other states (AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, KS, LA, ME, MD, MN, MS, NB, NV, NH, OK, PA, TN, UT, WI).
· The cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo have already adopted three foot passing laws. These laws are inconsistent and we should have uniformity in our traffic law throughout the state.
· The Ohio Digest of Motor Vehicle Laws, which is the guidebook for new drivers, already recommends that motorists provide at least 3’ clearance when passing cyclists.
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 2500 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. This very real concern is evidenced by the fact that there were 19 cyclist fatalities and 1307 cyclist injuries reported in crash reports in Ohio in 2013. 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 for children to counteract a tripling of obesity rates in 20 years.
House Bill 154 would also permit Ohio vehicles to proceed through intersections after stopping and yielding right-of-way when not detected by the detectors controlling traffic lights.
For these reasons, we strongly urge the General Assembly to enact House Bill 154, which will provide safety improvements for cyclists on Ohio roadways at no cost, enhancing our quality of life and improving the physical fitness of Ohioans young and old.