From Consider Biking:
Senators Teresa Fedor and Mark Wagoner to Announce Biking Safety Bill
Columbus, Ohio — Senators Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Mark Wagoner (R-Ottawa Hills) will announce the introduction of a biking safety bill September 28, 2009 at 10:30 AM on the west lawn of the Statehouse. The legislation will define a safe lateral passing distance of three feet when a motor vehicle passes a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle. The Ohio Bicycle Federation President, Chuck Smith, will be in attendance to speak in support of the legislation. Local riders and those injured by the failure of drivers to observe a safe passing distance will also be in attendance.
“Cyclists often do not feel safe riding in their neighborhoods or to work because of unsafe distances between cars. We must make Ohio streets safer for our over one million cyclists,” said Senator Fedor.
Senator Fedor, joined by Senator Wagoner for part of the journey, completed her 3rd Annual Bike to the Capitol tour during Bike to Work Week. The ride reinforced the need for bike-friendly communities and safer roads for those who use bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation. The tour took Senator Fedor from Toledo to Columbus over a 3-day period on a “Campaign for Healthy Kids and Communities”. The event was geared toward raising awareness about quality physical and health education standards in schools, alternative means of transportation and bicycle-friendly communities.
I'm torn on this legislation. On one hand, it's great to see our government taking an interest in safety over speed for a change. And forcing cars to keep three feet away while passing is a wonderful way to do so. I admire the heck out of Senators Fedor and Wagoner for their efforts to make our streets safer for all operators.
But... let's be honest here. Is three feet enough? Most cars pass me with 4 or 5 feet clearance already, and three feet feels pretty close. Controlling the lane helps me to push cars over the lane dividing line if they want to pass, and in such cases three feet would seem like I was being crowded.
And is anyone actually going to enforce this? If I went up to a police officer with a car's license plate number and told them that I thought they were disobeying the three foot law, how am I going to prove it?
This seems more like a feel-good law than anything that has any sort of real power.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If we really want to do something to make motorists respect the space around cyclists, we'll enact a law that emulates the 5th Motorist Directive from the EU, and place the burden of legal and insurance responsibility for safety on the operators of the most dangerous vehicles - the cars.
My friend CycleDog said it best: cars are weapons. You need a license to drive a car, you need a license to own a gun. And if you were to blindly fire a gun and accidentally hit someone that you didn't see, would "I didn't see them!" be a defense or an admission of guilt? There's no difference here than driving a car, and the responsibility for safety NEEDS to fall to the operators of the vehicles that are doing all the damage.
People, not speed.