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Houston Police Encourage Exceeding Bike Safety Laws

Houston Police Encourage Exceeding Bike Safety Laws

Houston Police Encourage Exceeding Bike Safety Laws 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

During a recent news conference in Houston, Texas, the police demonstrated how they enforce the city’s Safe Passing Ordinance, a law passed in 2013, which requires that drivers give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing them.

The police explained that they enforce the ordinance with the use of a C3FT, a device that is mounted on the handlebars of an officer’s bike. The C3FT works by bouncing ultrasonic waves against passing cares to determine how much space they are allowing when passing.

Vulnerable Road Users and Ordinance Enforcement

To date, 53 people have been sited and 33 others have been issued warnings under the law. Since the ordinance has been passed five years ago, 23 cyclists have been killed in Houston. John Long, the executive director of BikeHouston, wishes that the police would more regularly enforce the ordinance, though he believes that the change has been slow because many of them are not aware of it. “It’s like turning an oceanliner,” he said. Mary Natoli, the president of the Cycling and Triathlon team at Rice University, agrees. “I also think that every collision involving a vulnerable road user should be carefully evaluated for violation of the vulnerable road-user ordinance,” she said. “If a driver caused a collision and was violating the VRU ordinance at the time, they could be cited for that on top of another citation. Often the investigating officer either is not aware of the law or does not think of it.”

Education More Important than Citations

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Texas is one of thirty-three states to introduce a safe-passing distance of three feet or greater. One city, which defined its own safe-passing distance, is Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city has used its Safe Passing Ordinance to decrease accidents by about 25% only a year since its enforcement. Officer Rob Simmons of the Chattanooga police department strongly believes in letting drivers go with a warning and some education instead of a citation, since he claims most of the drivers he speaks with agree not to follow so closely in the future.

“You can always penalize people financially, but it does not lead to long-term behavior modification,” Simmons said. “These are human beings and it’s rare that a victim has the chance to explain it to the driver.” He feels that educating the public is more important than penalizing them.

Exceed the Ordinance When Possible

Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo, is pushing for motorists to observe – if not exceed – the city’s ordinance. “I tell folks life is about common sense and good judgment. If you can safely give yourself some space as a driver when you see someone riding a bicycle on the side of traffic and you can safely go into the left lane, do that. There’s nothing wrong with exceeding the requirements of the law.”

If you have been involved in a bicycle accident, there is a chance that you are entitled to compensation. Contact a Houston personal injury attorney today for more information.