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Letter: Give cyclists 3 feet for sake of safety

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Noel Taylor


3 Feet is a new campaign being launched in Columbus this month. Named for a provision in the Indiana Drivers Manual, it references the minimum distance a motorist is required to maintain between his vehicle and a bicycle rider at all times when passing a cyclist traveling in the same direction. It’s a simple safety issue, but one which I’ve found to deserve more publicity.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a shiny new dump truck on State Street, a school bus on U.S. 31 or an old Cavalier on Rocky Ford Road — I’m frequently passed by vehicles that have two lanes at their disposal but come within inches of me or closer.

More than a few years back I was struck in the helmet by the rearview mirror of a school bus on U.S. 31. Fortunately it was a glancing blow, and I was able to ride down into the ditch in front of Sap’s Bakery without losing control of my bike. I reported the incident to the appropriate person at BCSC but was essentially ignored even though I offered to come and give in-service training on bicycle awareness and safety issues.

Some years later, I was forced into the curb on Central Avenue by another school bus that was going by me in the left lane but pulled over into the right lane before completing the pass. That time, following my filing another report, a driver actually called me to apologize, but from the conversation I realized that the reason she hadn’t seen me was that she was talking about an incident on Lowell Road. So much for perpetrators being held responsible.

This year I have yet to ride to work on any day without experiencing at least one violation of the law, hence the campaign. It simply offers 3.5-by-8-inch stickers for car windows or bumpers. The stickers say “3 Feet” in large letters and show clip art of a car on the left side and clip art of a cyclist on the right side, with a double-headed arrow that contains the word “minimum” placed between them.

Paul and Lisa Wendel at QuickSigns helped with the design. They, Joe Kahlenbeck at Columbus Cycling and Fitness, and Dave Dailey at his State Farm Insurance office are providing the main distribution points for the stickers. WYGS and The Bridge have provided the initial publicity. The stickers themselves, displayed on vehicles, become the main thrust of public education on a provision of the law that all licensed drivers in Indiana should know and obey but obviously don’t.

Columbus claims to be a bicycle-friendly community. Based partly upon experiences similar to the ones described above, patients of mine know otherwise. While none of them or their children have been killed in the process of riding, it would take only one wobble, while being crowded by an irritated motorist, to change that. To those of you who care, I encourage you to pick up a sticker and join the effort by displaying it on your vehicle. Thanks for listening.

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