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Beginning today, Ohio bicyclists get more room on road

3-foot buffer zone law taking effect

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    Beginning today, motorists must give bicyclists, like this one riding along Woodville Road in East Toledo, a buffer zone of at least three feet when they are passing them.

    THE BLADE
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  • CTY-secorbike4p-3-21

    Bicycles proceed southward on Secor Road approaching Darlington Road as they pedal to Brantford Road and back to the school.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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Beginning today, bicyclists in Ohio are supposed to get a little more room on the road.

A new law requiring drivers to give bikes a buffer zone of at least three feet while passing took effect at midnight. It supplants an existing calling from drivers overtaking any other vehicles, including bicycles, to pass at a “safe distance,” but didn’t specify a distance.

Keith Webb, the organizer of a Toledo-area bicycling advocacy group who also sits on the board of trustees for the Ohio Bicycle Federation, said bill approval by the House in May and Senate in December followed by Gov. John Kasich’s signing three months ago concluded about eight years of trying to get a three-foot buffer law approved in Ohio.

“It’s been a long haul to get this through the Ohio legislature,” Mr. Webb said. “The federation did a really good job collectively in promoting the legislation through bicycling groups in the various cities. Every city worked to empower their local ridership to contact their representatives to get the bill pushed through.”

Some large Ohio cities already had three-foot laws on the books, including Toledo — which enacted its law in 2009 — and Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and Dayton.

State Rep. Michael Sheehy (D., Oregon), the legislation’s co-sponsor and an avid bicyclist, said virtually every bicyclist has a story about a car or truck driver who whizzed by too closely. His own son once was clipped by a passing vehicle’s side mirror.

“There has to be mutual respect among bicyclists and motorists,“ he said. “We have to create a culture of safety and recognition by motorists that bicyclists have a right to be on the road.”

Violations will be punishable as minor misdemeanors, with a fine of up to $150.

Ohio becomes the 28th state, plus the District of Columbia, to require motorists to give bicycle riders at least three feet of space when passing. Pennsylvania law dictates a four-foot berth. Michigan requires motorists to operate their vehicle under control when following bicyclist to be able to react safely if the bicyclist has to make an emergency maneuver.

Mr. Webb said the law is about ensuring bicyclists’ safety and bringing awareness and communicating to drivers the importance of putting distance between them and cyclists on the road.

“Hopefully, some people will see or read about the new law and think twice about what they are doing when they passing bicyclists. The bottom line is the new law could save lives,” he said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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