CLEVELAND – A new Ohio law, set to take effect Tuesday, will require motorists passing bicyclists to leave a three-foot buffer.
Ohio joins 27 other states that already have three-foot buffer laws. Previously, Ohio law simply required a safe passing distance. The new law defines that safe distance as at least three feet. Violators could face a minor misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $150 fine.
Bike Cleveland has advocated for the law, which passed in 2016 on the fourth attempt, according to the group’s Executive Director, Jacob Van Sickle. It planned a celebration ride Monday at 7 p.m. starting at Public Square.
“For us, it's really about ensuring the safety of bicyclists on the roadway but also defining what a safe passing distance is for the general public, at least three feet,” Van Sickle said. ”A big piece of the law is public awareness and communicating to people.”
He said he hopes it will protect vulnerable cyclists and reduce crashes.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety reported 282 crashes between cyclists and vehicles in Cuyahoga County in 2016, involving 238 injuries.
In 2015, a pickup truck collided with a group of bicyclists riding in Brecksville, killing two people. A ghost bicycle at the corner of East 21st and Prospect Avenue in downtown Cleveland memorialized Sylvia Bingham, killed by a truck while riding to work in 2009.
“I think most cyclists who have been on the road have been in that situation where a vehicle or truck has passed you far, far too close,” said Jason Kuhn, Communications and Events Manager for Bike Cleveland.
Cleveland has had a three-foot buffer law on the books since 2013, but it is rarely enforced.
Bike Cleveland hopes enforcement will increase with a new C3FT device it purchased. The device, attached to a bicycle’s handle bars, uses sonar to measure how close a passing vehicle is. It makes a beeping sound and displays the distance, in inches, in a monitor on the bike, as a camera records the measurement and vehicle.
Bike Cleveland plans to loan the $1,400 device to area police departments to use for enforcement, and group leaders hope some departments may purchase one of their own.
“It's not a disputable thing where it's been measured,” Kuhn said.