By Megan Alley
A new law went into effect on March 21 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.