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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Should Cyclists have a 3-foot buffer zone?

CANADA - Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo is proposing to give cyclists a wider birth, wanting to make it illegal for motorists to drive within 3 feet of a cyclist when passing them.

The private member's bill was introduced yesterday in Queen's Park and is proposing hefty fines for motorists who fail to give cyclists a reasonable amount of space.

“Leaving three feet while passing would go a long way in making the roads safer for cyclists,” DiNovo said. “This bill would serve as another reminder to share the road while encouraging people to ride their bike.”

Under the proposed amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, motorists would have to give cyclists a berth of three feet when travelling under 50 km/h (the speed limit on most city streets), four feet for speeds between 50 km/h and 80 km/h and five feet for over 80 km/h.

Fines of between $310 and $750 would be imposed on people who ignore the law.

A recent accident near Montreal might have been prevented if such a law had been in place. Three cyclists were killed and three others injured when a truck hit the group of triathlon athletes.

There is also a 2004 Toronto study that found passing motorists was the leading killer of cyclists and the second leading cause of collisions with bikes.

The problem right now is there is no defined space allowed to cyclists. The laws are quite vague, leaving it up to the cyclist how much room they require to feel safe. But motorists (some of whom believe cyclists shouldn't even be on the road) often ignore cyclist buffer zones because they either don't know about the laws concerning cyclists or don't care.

#1. A bicycle is a vehicle under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, thus a cyclist has the right to use the road and should be treated with equal respect as other vehicles.

#2. Cyclists must stay on the right side of the lane, but maintain a distance from the curb, parked cars, potholes and obstacles so as to maintain a straight line. A cyclist may occupy any part of a lane when their safety warrants it. (Note: A cyclist can move into a left lane if they need to turn left at an intersection.)

Thus a cyclist can take up as much or as little of a lane as they feel necessary to ensure their personal safety.

However this doesn't always fly with motorists, due to any number of reasons (road rage, bad day at work, lack of respect for cyclists, etc.) and thus the need for a specific buffer zone of 3 feet or more is a pretty good idea. The current vagueness of the law leaves the distance between the cyclist and the curb up to the personal discretion of the cyclist, but there is no law dictating the distance required between a motorist and a cyclist.

Right now its up to the motorist to decide, which means many motorists can simply choose to ignore the safety of the cyclist.

1 comment:

  1. I sure hope this legislation passes. Great idea. Some good things are happening, cycling-culture-wise, but so much of it is patchwork and without real dedication to push things through.



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