A new state law that went into effect Mar. 21 should give bicyclists a bit more room on the road. Approved in December, House Bill 154 requires motorists give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance while passing.
According to Ottawa Hills Police Chief John Wenzlick, there have been "a few" automobile/bicycle accidents over the past few years, and some have resulted in minor injuries.
Wenzlick said the three foot buffer is helpful, but it is not a panacea.
"Even though there are new laws to protect cyclists, drivers need to pay attention," Wenzlick said. "They need to be aware of their surroundings and don't text and drive."
Some motorists may not know they can - under certain conditions - cross a double-yellow line to give a bicyclist the three foot buffer as they pass. According to Ohio law, motorists can cross the center line to pass slow moving vehicles when there is "sufficient sight distance ahead to permit the passing maneuver to be safely accomplished, taking into account the speed of the slower vehicle."
When following the rules of the road, a cyclist has exactly the same "right of way" as any car, truck or bus driver. They are also permitted to ride "two abreast" in the same lane. Ohio law does not require cyclists to move out of the way of faster traffic.
While there is a new law for motorists to abide by, Chief Wenzlick urged cyclists to remember they too must obey the "rules of the road" when riding a bicycle on a roadway. Cyclists must ride with the flow of traffic, obey basic traffic laws, stop at stop signs and red lights, and follow all traffic control devices.
"Between sunset and sun up, bicycles have to have a white light on the front of the bike and a red light on the rear," Wenzlick said.
Wenzlick also encouraged cyclists to wear a helmet, and to register their bicycles with the Village. The bicycle licenses are a free service of the OHPD. Residents can stop by the station, or call and an officer will stop by their home to get the pertinent details about the bike being registered.
This summer the OHPD will again team up with the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department and a pair of OHES teachers to offer Safety Village this summer through the Office of Village Life. Safety Village is designed to help children entering kindergarten learn and understand good safety habits, including bicycle safety rules.