A 7-year battle to make Ohio’s roads safer for bicyclists ended earlier this month when the legislature enacted a 3-foot passing bill.
Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law on Dec. 19. It goes into effect before the end of March 2017.
The law makes Ohio the 30th state (and the District of Columbia) to require that motorists give bicycle riders at least 3 feet of space when passing. (For a breakdown, see “30 states require motorists give bicycles 3 feet or more“)
Of those, three require more room. Pennsylvania requires a 4-foot gap; South Dakota requires 6 feet if the speed is greater than 35 mph; and North Carolina requires 4 feet of space in a no-pass zone, and 2 feet otherwise.
The Ohio Bicycle Federation has been lobbying for a 3-foot passing bill for seven years. Although bills were in the legislature nearly every year, none succeeded.
According to bike federation chair Chuck Smith:
“The passing of House Bill 154 was a team effort in which the Ohio Bicycle Federation received support from all cycling organizations in Ohio and their members. The Ohio Sierra Club also provided great support in this effort. It was everyone contacting their elected representatives which brought this success. “
Rep. Mike Sheehy of Toledo was the House bill’s primary sponsor, and Rep. Mike Henne of northern Montgomery County helped move it through the legislature with help from staffer Kevin Arnst. There also was a companion bill in the Senate.
Smith said the next goal is to educate Ohio motorists about the importance of the new law.
Violators will be guilty of a “minor misdemeanor.” If the offender had been guilty of a another motor vehicle or traffic offense in the previous year, the violator will be guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If the offender had been guilty of two or more motor vehicle infractions in the previous year, the violator will be guilty of a misdemeanor in the third degree.
That leaves 20 states, including Washington, with no laws on the books requiring a definitive gap for passing bicyclists. Some suggest motorists pass bicyclists “at a safe distance.”