Local cyclists can soon feel safer traveling on the road. Starting today, motorists must give three feet of clearance when passing a bicycle rider. That distance is measured from the outmost portion of the vehicle to the outmost portion of the bicycle. Similar laws already exist in 39 other states.
There are between five and eight cycling deaths each year in Kentucky.
A bicycle is considered a slow moving vehicle. Cyclists must follow the same road rules as motorists, and therefore have the same right-of-way as any car, truck or bus.
This law could have a major impact on communities like Hopkinsville that lack designated bike lanes on main roads. Over the past few years, long distance cycling has been gaining popularity in the local community. Hopkinsville has accepted the cycling community better than some residents expected.
“I think we have some of the best cooperation between cyclists and cars that you could imagine,” said Tim Moore, owner of Bikes and Moore.
According to Moore, both the cyclists and car drivers are already doing a good job of sharing the road with each other. Now there will be a legal penalty for drivers and cyclists not following laws that have long been just unspoken agreements.
The law also makes it legal for motor vehicles to pass cyclists even in a no passing zone, when the roadway is unobstructed. Previously, motorists had to wait until they reached a passing zone to safely pass.
Cyclists are not allowed to ride more than two abreast on a single highway lane, unless on a road marked for cycling use.
“If you really want to go fast the best way to do it is single file…but that’s not very social,” said Moore.
According to Moore, if there is a large group of cyclists together, riding two-by-two takes up less space on the road. It keeps the line of cyclists shorter, so cars lined up behind the group can pass easier. The ability to ride two-by-two instead of single file depends on the quality and size of the road.
The new law was spearheaded by psychologist-turned-citizen advocate, Dixie Moore. After numerous close encounters on her bicycle in Lexington, she decided to push state legislatures to pass specific laws ensuring road safety for cyclists.
The law will obviously make it safer for local cyclists, but it also has an economic benefit. Safer cycling laws can attract tourists to the area. Some people call cycling tourists “a wallet on wheels,” according to Dixie Moore. With its country roads and beautiful scenery, Christian County could be a perfect place for those tourists to safely ride.
“We’re (cyclists) not asking to be special,” said Dixie Moore. “We’re just asking to be safe.”
REACH JON RUSSELBURG at 270-887-3241