LIMA — As an avid bicyclist, Juergen Waldick has been passed so many times by cars so close he was sure it shaved the hair off his legs.
Not only is that nerve-racking but it’s very dangerous.
Beginning Tuesday, a new law goes into effect requiring motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing. As the county prosecutor, Waldick is happy with the new law that will let police cite motorists who break the law and prosecutors prosecute them.
While many people give cyclists a lot of space, even go well into the other lane to pass, there are motorists who don’t and those who “thread the needle” between bicyclists and an oncoming car, Waldick said.
“You see it a lot, people trying to squeeze between the oncoming traffic and the bike. Just slow down a little bit. People on the bikes have a right to be there, No. 1, and No. 2, they want to go home to their families,” Waldick said.
On Monday public safety people gathered at the Allen County Courthouse to remind motorists of the new law while making a personal plea for safety with bicyclists on the road, especially as the weather warms.
Allen County has the unfortunate honor of leading the state in the number of crashes with bicyclists and pedestrians, said Shelly Miller, a coordinator for Creating Health Communities Program.
Lima Police Department Lt. Andy Green said officers in his agency as well as all other agencies will be watching for violators and citing them. He said officers want to knock Allen County from the No. 1 ranking and hopefully send the county way down the charts.
Many cyclists also have cameras mounted to their bikes to catch motorists who come too close. Waldick said those can be used to prosecute people.
Green also said bicyclists have as much right to the roadway as cars and there is no specific rule as to where a cyclists must be on the road although he recommends riding as close to the curb or edge of the road as it’s safe to do so given sewer grates, pot holes and other obstacles.
“Three feet from the curb is not unreasonable and people in cars need to realize that and not crowd someone on a bicycle,” Green said.
Waldick said it’s also a common courtesy to give cyclists as much space as possible. Cars passing a bike at 50 mph, especially when close, can frighten a rider, he said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.