Low cost bicycle comfort action may require some driver education and enforcement: Dearborn City Council passes ordinance designed to protect cyclists

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An ordinance change designed to protect bicyclists requires drivers to leave five feet of space when passing cyclists on city streets. Photo courtesy of City of Dearborn

Dearborn has an active, growing community of bicyclists and an ordinance recently passed by the City Council takes another step in ensuring they are protected on the roads.

The ordinance change requires drivers to give bicycles at least five feet of space when passing on the street.

According to the new ordinance, when a driver is approaching a bicyclist moving in the same direction, the driver shall “exercise due care and may only overtake or pass a bicyclist when there is a safe distance.”

It specifies that drivers must leave at least five feet between any part of their vehicle and the bicyclist. Drivers also are required to pass on the bicycle’s left side. Drivers who violate the ordinance will be charged with a civil infraction.

Those active in Dearborn’s cycling scene are pleased with the added measure of protection, including Tracy Besek, co-founder of Bike Dearborn and organizer of Healthy Dearborn’s weekly Walk ‘n Rolls.

“Motor vehicle operators need to realize that by law, bicycles do indeed belong on the street,” Besek said. “While we ride as far right as practicable as the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code states, we do have a right to use a full lane, and will do so when it puts us in a more visible and predictable position.”

She said she’s experienced several incidents with hostile drivers putting bicyclists in danger by passing too closely and at high rates of speed.

“It is not acceptable for a fast-moving car to squeeze close by us at a high rate of speed or to pass us on the right between us and the curb or parked cars,” she said.

The new ordinance had its final reading by the City Council on Sept. 26 and takes effect in October.

The city recently has undertaken several initiatives to encourage people to bike around Dearborn streets, including adding bike lanes and launching a bike share program.

The Healthy Dearborn Family Bike Ride, which was launched in October 2015 by Mayor John O’Reilly, Jr., will roll again Oct. 7 and weekly community bike rides organized by Besek leave every Wednesday from May through October from parks across the city.

“Bicyclists in Dearborn, whether they are riding for recreation or to commute to work or other destinations, deserve to feel safe,” Besek said. “Dearborn is quickly becoming more bike friendly. This is just another piece of the puzzle. We are optimistic that this will eventually become a state law.”