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Ohio's new bike passing law goes into effect Tuesday

By Ginger Christ • Mar 20, 2017 at 7:42 PM

CLEVELAND — Starting Tuesday, a new statewide law will require motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance while passing.

HB 154, which passed in December, makes Ohio one of more than half of the states to put in place a three-foot passing law and brings together municipal efforts to legislate the safety of bicyclists. It updates a previous state law requiring drivers to pass bicyclists at a safe distance.

Across Ohio, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, as well as Bay Village, already have enacted three-foot bike passing laws.

"I think to have the law statewide, it really gives it validity," said Jacob Van Sickle, executive director of Bike Cleveland, a local bike advocacy organization. "It's really about a culture shift and building the policies that help shift the culture of how people drive around a vulnerable road user like someone on a bike."

Van Sickle would like to see more safety-related laws, likes those regarding distracted driving, handled at a statewide level. In Ohio, a number of municipalities have stricter distracting driving laws on the books than the state.

Under the new law: "The operator of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle shall pass to the left at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. When a motor vehicle overtakes and passes a bicycle, three feet or greater is considered a safe passing distance."

The three-foot passing distance is a standard supported both by the American Automobile Association and the League of American Bicyclists.

To help with enforcement of the new law, Bike Cleveland purchased an electronic device that monitors the distance of passing vehicles. They plan to loan the C3FT device, which attaches to bicycles, to local police departments. Eventually, the group would like to see local departments purchased their own C3FT devices to enforce the three-foot passing law while on bike patrol.

Jason Kuhn, communications and events manager for Bike Cleveland, in February tested out the C3FT device on the roads of Ohio City.

"No one set it off, which was great," Kuhn said. "Up in this area, there's a lot of bikes and a lot of awareness."

However, he said, some drivers don't know they are permitted to cross a double yellow line to safely pass a bicyclist.

"Drivers don't realize they can cross that center line," Kuhn said. "It's okay to cross the yellow line."

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