Cyclists ask for more space on Oregon roads
January 30, 2007
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Jim Bombardier said he was doing everything right: he
had reflectors, a helmet and he was cycling on the shoulder of Highway
30, marveling at the beauty of Oregon’s pastoral farmland.
Then an SUV slammed into him.
The 58-year old cyclist, a self-employed computer specialist and
inventor, is still in rehab six months after the accident, but he’s
hopeful that a new bill requiring motorists to give bicycle riders a
three-foot safety buffer when passing them from behind may help others
avoid his pain.
“If it’s enforced and people take it conscientiously, it will save
lives,” Bombardier said.
The Senate Judiciary committee considered the bill on Monday that bike
advocates say would increase safety for cyclists, educate the public
about their driving responsibilities and help stem tensions between the
But not everyone thinks the bill is a good idea and almost everyone
agrees that it needs work.
“This puts all the onus on the car motor vehicle driver to make sure
that the separation is there when there is nothing on the bicyclist,”
Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, said. “It’s totally one-sided,” he said.
The bill would also let motorists cross the no-pass median line to
maintain the safety buffer while overtaking a cyclist.
But cyclists said that motorists often don’t realize that they need
extra space to maneuver around pot holes, trash and other debris — not
to mention the strong winds generated by passing vehicles.
“I think for a lot of motorists, what they don’t understand is that
being miserly with the distance is really dangerous,” said Ray Thomas, a
Portland bike lawyer who testified before the committee.
A spokeswoman for TriMet, Portland’s public transit agency, said the
measure needed additional tweaking but that they were working with
cyclist advocacy groups to shape the policy.
“Where we have some pause is in places like downtown Portland where the
streets are very narrow,” said Mary Fetsch, a spokeswoman for the
Fetsch said that if the three-foot rule were implemented it would
require buses to change lanes on many downtown streets to allow cyclists
a full three-foot buffer.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said he thought the buffer should be
greater than three feet.
“If someone is sitting on a bike and they fell over sideways, when they
fall, they’re going to fall further than three feet,” he said.
The senator said he was working on additional legislation to address the
same problem. “We also want to make certain that when we say ’safe
distance,’ that it truly is safe,” Prozanski said.
Eleven cyclists died in traffic-related accidents in 2005. Figures for
2006 have not yet been released. According to the Oregon Department of
Transportation, responsibility for accidents involving cyclists and
motorists was equally split between the two groups in 2005.