New law enforces 3-foot cushion for bikers on Ohio roads

Updated: Mar. 20, 2017 at 10:21 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Sharing the road with cyclists is a concept many people continue to get used to.

"A lot of times cyclists get pushed up against the curb or passed well within 3-feet," said Jacob VanSickle, Bike Cleveland executive director.

A new law, which takes effect Tuesday, aims to enforce a 3-foot barrier by creating the penalty of a minor misdemeanor for drivers caught too close to bikers. Ohio will become one of 27 states to enforce this type of law.

"You can feel the wind of the car going by you, almost hitting your handlebars. It can be a harrowing experience," said VanSickle.

About 50 people gathered in Public Square for a ride Monday evening, celebrating the new law they advocated for. Starting Tuesday, drivers spotted within 3-feet of a cyclist face a $150 fine.

In 2016, there were 282 crashes in Cuyahoga County involving bikes. About 84 percent of the bikers were hurt. Statewide, 18 people died.

"The more laws we get passed that help make the streets safer for people on bikes, the more people will be out riding and the more motorists will understand that bikes actually have a legal right to the road," VanSickle said.

To help enforce the new law, Bike Cleveland plans to loan a C3FT device to local police departments. It's an ultrasonic device that costs about $1,400. It tracks the distance between a bike's handlebars and another object, like a car.

"Someone comes a little too close, you hear an alarm pop off, lights flash on there and the whole time it's being recorded," said Jason Kuhn, Bike Cleveland communications and events manager. "This is a way to have documented proof there was an infraction and be able to ticket a driver for coming too close to a cyclist."

Even if drivers don't get caught or fined, VanSickle said he hopes this new law brings awareness and keeps cyclists safe on Ohio roads.

VanSickle said Cleveland's cyclist community is growing quickly. From 2000 to 2010, there was a 280 percent increase in people riding their bikes to work.

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