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Ky. Senate OKs 3-foot rule for passing cyclists

Posted: 7:49 PM, Feb 09, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-10 00:49:33Z

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky is one step closer to requiring motorists provide a 3-foot cushion when passing cyclists on the road, statewide.

Kentucky state senators approved Senate Bill 80 by a 33-4 margin Tuesday. The bill would create the 3-foot mandate, as well as allow drivers to cross the double-yellow line when necessary in order to avoid getting too close to a cyclist, even in a no-passing zone.

The 3-foot cushion between a vehicle and a bicycle has now become a widespread standard requirement across the country, with nearly half of U.S. states enacting the requirement, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some states require as wide as 4 or 5-foot cushions.

Kentucky’s current set of statutes gives no indication of safe-passing rules, but the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recommends the 3-foot cushion.

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If the measure earns Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature, it would make Kentucky the first in the Tri-State with such a statewide rule.

Cincinnati’s code of ordinances includes the 3-foot passing requirement, and Ohio lawmakers are considering similar legislation for the Buckeye State, according to Chuck Smith, with the Ohio Bicycle Federation .

Smith said his organization will testify before the Ohio Senate Transportation Committee Wednesday in support of the proposed law, Senate Bill 192.

Four Kentucky senators voted against the bill Tuesday. Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said the law would encourage people to ride bicycles on the state highways, which he believes could result in more crashes, according to the Associated Press.

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, said the bill would heighten awareness of bicyclists.

Cincinnati-based bicycling attorney, Steve Magas, told WCPO last month that what interests him more about the legislation is that it would also absolve cyclists from the expectation that riding “as far to the right as practicable” means riding in the shoulder of the roadway, which often can contain debris and other dangerous obstacles.

The bill cleared the senate less than 2 weeks after Cincinnati cyclist, Michael Prater, was struck and killed while riding along U.S. 52 in Anderson Township.

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Pat LaFleur on Twitter ( @pat_laFleur ) for all things bicycling and living car-free in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.