WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Drivers in West Lafayette may need to think twice before passing a bicyclist on the road. On Monday, city leaders will consider a new ordinance that would force drivers to allow at least 3 feet when passing a cyclist.
It was already under consideration as a cyclist Rodney Smith was killed by a hit-and-run driver on North Ninth Street Road in Tippecanoe County earlier this month.
While the 3-foot rule isn't a law yet, News 18 enlisted the help of a willing cyclist and a city police officer Thursday to see how drivers currently act.
Bicycle Lafayette co-founder and bike czar Michael Dick pedaled up to Chauncey Hill several times on State Road 26 with our camera rolling and West Lafayette Sgt. Jason Philhower looking on.
Most drivers like to do what they can to give as much space as possible.
But on a second trip up the Hill, a yellow SUV trying to turn right onto Salisbury got much too close for comfort.
"I've been doing this a really long time, so I'm really used to it. But my main concern is for new riders, people really feeling intimidated," Dick says.
Dick adds the Chauncey Hill area can be one of the more dangerous spots around West Lafayette, especially when students are in town and during rush hour.
While there is another car or two that may get too close before changing lanes, most drivers are cautious and courteous. Dick says that's typical.
"Ninety-five percent are really good and conservative. But it just takes that one person to ruin your ride," he adds.
It's a point fresh in the minds of cyclists with the death of Smith.
A 3-foot passing distance may be more than some drivers realize. From the shoulder of a cyclist, three feet brings one out to the middle of the lane. It means if a driver is going to pass, he or she will need to cross over into a passing lane or opposing traffic.
"Having a set 3-foot standard would make it easier for us for enforcement because it's something that's a little clear cut," says Sgt. Philhower.
Philhower says he's also pleased by what he sees Thursday and would support passage by city council.
"I think it makes sense for bicyclists and it's good to have it on the books," he says.
"It's just a simple thing that can happen that doesn't cost any tax dollars and can really help push the awareness movement," adds Dick.
Dick also says whenever a fellow bicyclist is killed, it change the way other cyclists ride. Some will start riding more defensively and closer to the middle of the lane. He says it's not an attempt to be rude, it's just trying to be safe.
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