Improvements in OK Bike Law

6 Apr

3 feet lawIn the fall of 2007 I seriously contemplated giving up bicycling on the roads in my community. It wasn’t the first time I had considered giving up riding on the road; I considered it in 1995 when I was hit by a car, and considered it nearly every other time I had a near-miss.

That particular time in 2007 was after a week where I had experienced several close calls.

Giving up riding on the road would be giving up a lot for me (a major understatement), but I was frustrated, angry and scared.

I remember well sitting in the living room talking to my husband about my uncertainties of continuing to ride on the road.  That discussion led me action (as discussions often do) and to the Internet to see what Oklahoma laws said about bicycling.

To my surprise and relief I learned Oklahoma had passed a law in 2006 requiring drivers to give each and every cyclist 3 feet of space when overtaking them.

Three feet!  I had times I wasn’t getting one foot, much less 3, I was overjoyed but also bewildered at how something like this could have become law and I didn’t know about it.  I’ve been biking consistently since 1990 and had become somewhat of an advocate after my accident in 1995 and yet I had never heard of it.

The drivers I had encountered recently obviously didn’t know about it!  My commitment to cycling on the road was renewed – now we had the law on our side!

The first thing I did was to write a letter to the Edmond City Manager attaching a copy of the State law and asking the following questions:

1. Is there a consequence to the motorist when they violate Subsection A and no injury or death occurs?
2. Has the City of Edmond issued any citations under this new statute?
3. What actions should I or other cyclists take if a motorist does not provide the three feet of distance when passing?

The following week I received a reply explaining that Edmond would need to adopt the law as a city ordinance for it to be enforced. Tim Tillman the chair of the Edmond Bicycle Committee(EBC) at that time, contacted me and invited me to their next meeting which was in December 2007.   EBC, made up of local cyclists and other interested persons in making Edmond safer to bicycle, welcomed my involvement and we quickly put together a draft ordinance essentially adopting the language of the State law.

On January 28th, 2008, the Edmond City Council voted and passed the ordinance (Ordinance 3123).

So in just over 2 months from the time of my original letter to the City, we had an ordinance on the books to provide for improving cyclist safety in Edmond, OK.  I didn’t expect it and to be honest, I was amazed at how easy it was.

And the EBC didn’t stop there. 

Just this past month Edmond strengthened the bicycle ordinance, the changes go into effect April 27, 2011.  It amends the “3-feet” rule to allow for citations to be issued regardless of whether or not there is an accident – a significant and important change (state law specifies there must be an accident causing serious physical injury).  This change in my opinion is due in large part to the deaths of two cyclists who were tragically hit and killed last summer in the Oklahoma City/Edmond area. 

The new ordinance also allows for bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks outside of the Edmond downtown area (an important issue for parents of young children); specifies a bicycle “shall be considered a vehicle when traveling on the roadway’”; removes requirements for bells, sirens or whistles (too bad about the siren, but I’m keeping my bell) on bicycles and the license and registration requirements for bicycles. 

The first ordinance introduced in January 2008 and this new and improved version will go a long way to ensuring a cyclist’s rights (and responsibilities) are more apparent and understood.  Moreover, it will lend credibility to a cyclist’s right to be on the road and in turn (and in time) make it more acceptable to drivers.

Becoming an accepted and most important, expected presence on the road, is key to making Edmond a truly bike-able community.

Yes, we still have a long way to go, but trust me – things are much better now for cyclists than they were when I first started riding in 1990.  Laws are being amended and created at the state level too in an effort to improve cycling in our state, and although some efforts failed at least we have an understanding among policymakers that changes are sorely needed. 

As was done with this new ordinance building on the previous one, it is important to continue to advocate and work for improvements – and to build on this latest achievement.

A big thank you goes to the Edmond Bicycle Committee for their efforts in getting the new ordinance adopted.

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7 Responses to “Improvements in OK Bike Law”

  1. Frederick Su April 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    Susan,

    I believe all bicycle riders are at risk. After the latest episode where I was almost killed by a bus driver cutting me off so as to keep his momentum going 35+ mph up a hill, I bought a helmet-mounted video camera. I did complain to his supervisor. The bus driver admitted his fault but he claimed I sped up and reached 30 mph on the flats pulling a dog trailer! I told his supervisor that if I could go 30 mph on the flats with a dog trailer, I deserved to be in the Tour de France. At least the video camera, like a dash-mounted video camera on a cop car, is the trump card in any I said/s(he)said controversy. Oh, the camera is a Drift Innovation HD 170. Since then, I have recorded many close calls. The caveat is that there is so much out there that, except for the close calls, I immediately delete everything once I get home. As for those close calls, I can capture the culprit with a “snapshot” feature. Another caveat: though it is “high definition,” to be able to capture license plates, the zoom has to be set at ~3.5 power. This is a nice feature, as some other video cameras don’t even have a zoom feature.

    • Susan April 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      I guess we could take it so far and say we’re all at risk period. On the one hand I agree that people that ride bikes are at more risk than drivers of cars, but that type of thinking is in large part what keeps people from riding, which puts those of us that do ride at more risk. Study after study has shown that the more people there are riding bikes the safer the roads are for us.

      The camera could come in handy for those of us living in states with a good “3 feet” law. Seeing that many close calls could be unnerving, but it would be good to have the evidence the pictures provide. I noticed in a Performance bike catalog just yesterday a helmet mounted camera, guess they’re getting popular.

      BTW, I enjoyed your book, American Sin. Tough reading in parts, but I grew to understand and like Wong. You told the story well, I especially liked the part about his trip to DC and the Vietnam Memorial. The book gave a good glimpse into what many Vietnam Vets must go though and deal with. The second sin was as a country we never gave them their due – respect and appreciation.


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