The news from Ottawa County was not good-a 21-year-old Massachusetts woman was killed in a bicycle accident on a recent Monday evening. The woman, of Holliston, Massachusetts, was riding her bicycle through Ohio westbound on S.R. 163 around 7:23 p.m. when a Ford Escape SUV struck her from behind. According to NBC 3 News, the woman was thrown from the bike and died from her injuries. She was wearing a helmet.
Investigators say the driver of the car was adjusting her sun visor due to sun glare when she struck the rider on her bike. The woman, a recent graduate of Westfield State University, was riding her bicycle from her Holliston, Massachusetts, home to San Francisco in an effort to raise money for multiple sclerosis. Speed, drugs and alcohol were not factors in the crash, the highway patrol said. The incident remains under investigation.
A question that often is asked is whether a bicyclist should ride in the same lane as traffic-as the above cyclist was-or the opposite way. Some riders think it is better to face traffic so they can see what is coming. The general law regarding motor vehicle traffic, however, applies to bicycles. Bicyclists should travel on the right of the road, and as far to the right as possible, unless a hazard or other conditions makes that impossible or unsafe. Crash statics show that wrong-way riding is more than three times the risk as riding on the right.
What is a safe passing distance?
What about the driver of the car in the above accident report? Currently, the Ohio Revised Code simply requires that motorists pass bicyclists leaving a safe passing distance. A bicycle safety policy that has generated significant interest in state legislatures in recent years is a three-foot or safe passing law.
The laws seek to ensure that a vehicle, when passing a bicycle, allows adequate space to avoid sideswiping the bicyclist or causing the bicyclists to suddenly swerve to avoid a passing vehicle. The first of such laws was passed in Wisconsin in 1973 and, as of June 3013, 21 states have adopted such a law. (Pennsylvania has a four-foot passing law and Virginia has a two-foot law.) The three-foot rule is endorsed by both the American Automobile Association and the League of American Bicyclists.
A three-foot bill was introduced earlier this year in the Ohio legislature. House Bill 145 sets the safe passing distance as “not less than three feet.” The law did not make it through the House of Representatives before their summer recess.
Anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident involving a bicycle should seek the advice of an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney to evaluate the circumstances of their case.