Motorists in Dayton are now required to give bicyclists a three-foot buffer zone while passing.
Dayton Commissioners approved legislation on Wednesdaycreating the three-foot berth requirement, which officials say should make Dayton’s roadways safer at a time when biking is gaining popularity.
The city is installing bike lanes on some major thoroughfares and city streets and the Link bike-share program had a successful first year.
But there have been nearly 200 motor vehicle crashes involving bikes in Dayton since 2011, resulting in four deaths.
“When you are passing a bicycle, you should give you and the bicycle adequate space to safely pass,” said Kery Gray, the director of the Dayton City Commission office.
Dayton’s Revised Code of General Ordinances required motorists to pass other vehicles at a “safe distance.”
But legislation approved on Wednesday specifies that motorists must give other vehicles, bicycles and trackless trolleys three feet of space when passing.
The penalty for violating this rule is a minor misdemeanor on the first offense but can be a higher-level misdemeanor on subsequent offenses or if the incident occurs while speeding in certain districts and safety zones.
The ordinance seeks to encourage motorists to share the road in a safer manner, said Gray.
About 197 crashes involving bicycles and motor vehicles have occurred on Dayton’s roadways since 2011, including 35 last year, according to data from the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
James Schneider, 68, was killed in March while riding his bike at Grafton and Homewood avenues in Dayton.
Two others died in crashes in Dayton in 2015. Dayton had only one fatality stemming from bike crashes between 2011 and 2014, according to state statistics.
Gray said cars have passed dangerously close to him while he was riding along city streets. He said other bicyclists have shared harrowing stories of near misses and close calls.
The buffer zone will make travel in Dayton safer because bicyclists face risks of collision and injury when they encounter potholes and other roadway obstacles and vehicles are following or passing too close, officials said.
Dayton wants to become a more walkable and bikeable community because access to reliable transportation is a social justice issue, said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
Many residents do not have cars and they rely on bikes to get to work or bus stops to get where they need to go, she said.
“We want to make sure our roads are for everybody, not just the privileged who have cars,” she said.
Twenty-four states have passed safe passing laws, and Dayton’s ordinance hopefully will encourage state lawmakers to pass similar rules, said Laura Estandia, executive director of Bike Miami Valley.
Estandia said the city can take additional steps to improve bicyclist safety, which include reducing the speed limit and posting speed limit signs downtown and adding more bike lanes and protected bike lanes.
Link celebrated its one-year anniversary on May 5, and riders in the first year took more than 33,000 trips.
“More than 60 percent of our users said they bike more often because of Link,” she said.
The city is expanding its bikeway network and adding connections to existing bike facilities. The city is adding bike lanes on Warren Street.
State Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton, has sponsored legislation that would standardize the three-foot safe passing rule statewide.
“I thought (the city) passing their piece of legislation encourages the support for our bill, which is really meant to bring uniformity across the state,” he said.
Henne said the bill reach the house bill on Tuesday. He said he has the votes to clear the house, but passage probably will not happen until after the election.
“This bill not only protects the bicyclist, but putting the definition (of what safe passage means) protects the driver,” he said.