DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – There is a new state law in Ohio that you probably don’t know about but if you drive a car or ride a bicycle on Ohio roads it applies to you.
If you are a road cyclist in Ohio, and there are thousands, this has probably happened to you. You’re just riding along when suddenly a car passes by and somebody yells at you to “Get on the bike path!”
They are right about one thing… here in southwest Ohio we do have the best bike trail network in the nation. Here’s where they’re wrong… Ohio state law defines bicycles as “vehicles,” which can be lawfully operated on virtually all Ohio roads which, by the way, were first paved in the 1880’s for cyclists.
We’re sharing the road with the cars.
Chuck Smith of the Ohio Bicycle Federation says, “And so they were the ones who got roads paved long before there were motorists out there. So, the bikes were first. That’s right. We’re sharing the road with the cars. That’s right and we’ve been very open-minded permitting the cars on ‘our’ roads.”
Now there’s something new that all cyclists and drivers need to know. Governor John Kasich recently signed into law House Bill 154, which requires motorists to give bicycles at least three feet of clearance when passing. The sponsor of that bill was state representative Mike Henne of Clayton.
“…it’s about sharing the road. That’s all it really is.”
“[I] Had some constituents bring me the bill already law in several other states so we introduced the bill,” Henne says. He continued, “…not as easy as I thought it would have been. You would not believe how many people don’t like sharing the road with cyclists. They think bikes should be on the sidewalk and cars on the road but in today’s age, it’s about sharing the road. That’s all it really is.”
“The motorist must give us three feet of passing clearance. The law up to now said a safe distance. Now this bill defined that distance as three feet. That’s very important. It’s easy to visualize three feet. It’s hard to visualize a safe distance,” Smith told 2 NEWS.
But say you’re on a two-lane road with a double-yellow line down the middle. Some drivers fear crossing that line to give a cyclist the now required clearance. The new law has you covered there as well.
Henne says, “Well, the law anticipates that and in situations where you have to go around something on the right you are allowed to go across the double yellow line you just have to yield to the other lane of traffic.”
The need for the new law is clear. According to the Ohio Department of Traffic Safety, every year, there are 1500 crashes involving cars and bicycles and at least 15 cyclists are killed because when cars and bicycles get together, the cyclist loses every time.
“If I can reach out and touch your car you’re too close…”
“It’s really about public awareness,” Henne says. “If I can reach out and touch your car you’re too close and that’s about three feet.”
To help raise awareness of this new state law, 2 NEWS and the Young’s Ice Cream Charity Bike Tour have come up with a new bumper sticker you can buy, with all proceeds going to four local charities: URS, Alzheimer’s, JDRF, and South Community Health.
You can find those bumpers stickers by clicking here.
If you would like to read the legislation for yourself, you can head to the Ohio Legislature page, or you can read it below.