PROOS: Improving road safety for Michigan bicyclists

Published 7:01 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

With more than 1,300 miles of biking trails to explore, Michigan has a trail for every interest and cycling level. Michigan also offers more rail trails than any other state and is one of the most scenic states for bicycle touring.

In fact, Southwest Michigan is home to one of the largest organized bicycle tours in the state. Each year, 5,000 bicyclists travel to Three Oaks for the annual Apple Cider Century bicycle tour.

The recreational and social tour of local vineyards, orchards and woods around Three Oaks allows bicyclists to choose the length of their own tour — from as short as 15 miles to as long as 100 miles.

As we encourage people to get out and take a bike ride, it is critical that we increase safety for everyone on our roads, especially bicyclists.

I recently supported Senate legislation to have Michigan join nearly 40 other states with a safe passing law for drivers passing bicyclists on the road.

Senate Bills 123, 124 and 170 would require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on either the left or right side, and would require the state’s initial teen driver education course to include at least one hour of classroom instruction on laws pertaining to bikes, motorcycles and vulnerable roadways users.

Drivers would be permitted to pass a bicycle in a no passing zone if it is safe to do so.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have safe passing laws that mention bicycles. Of those, 29 states and the District of Columbia require a passing distance of at least three feet.

The legislation was spearheaded by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, following a 2016 crash in Kalamazoo, in which a pickup truck hit a group of bicyclists, killing five of them.

It is about helping prevent further tragedies by making clear to drivers their responsibilities when approaching bicyclists on the road.

In the meantime, I encourage bicyclists to always follow safety rules and drivers to always keep an eye out for bicyclists and to pass with care.

JOHN PROOS, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties.