It’s a terrifying feeling — riding a bicycle on a Kentucky road and almost getting hit by a wayward driver.
“Most drivers in Kentucky will do the right thing and pull over as much as possible to make room for a cyclist. But there’s always a handful — and some even deliberately — who try to push the limit and get too close. I’ve been run off the road.,” said Lexington attorney Bill Gorton, who is chairman of the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission. It advises the state transportation secretary on the use of bicycles and bikeways.
Gorton is excited about a new state law dealing with bicycle safety. House Bill 33 is one of several new laws that take effect Saturday, July 14.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, will require drivers in Kentucky to keep their vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass.
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If that much space isn’t available, drivers must use “reasonable caution” when passing cyclists. This usually occurs on one-lane roads less than 10 to 12 feet wide.
Vehicles passing a bicycle must use the adjacent lane if available. If an adjacent lane is not available, then the passing vehicle should pass to the left at not less than three feet between the vehicle and they bicycle.
If the bicycle is in a bicycle lane, the passing vehicle should still be at least three feet from the bicycle.
Distance is measured from the outermost portion of the vehicle to the outermost portion of the bicycle. For example, a pickup truck with wide-view mirrors would require a space of three feet from the mirrors to the end of the bicycle handlebar.
The new law also allows passing vehicles to legally cross a double yellow line to pass a bicycle — if there is enough sight distance to safely pass, considering the slower speed of the bicycle and greater visibility around the bicycle.
Thirty-four states have similar safe passing laws to use the adjacent lane or give three feet or more.
Cycling is growing in popularity in Kentucky, said Gorton because of its recreational, health and transportation benefits.
“This new law is not just for Lexington and Louisville, but for the entire state,” he said, noting biking events in communities like London, Morehead, Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Henderson.
The new law that takes effect Saturday is “a major step forward for Kentucky to catch up with other states in cycling safety,” said Dixie Moore, a retired clinical psychologist in Lexington who usually cycles 25 or 30 miles at a time two to three times a week during good weather.
Moore was involved in getting the new law in Kentucky. “For three to five years, I talked about this every chance I got ...”
The measure, she said, will help educate drivers and cyclists about the road and provide a legal framework when there are accidents involving cyclists and drivers, she said.
Bill sponsor Miller said the bill has no specific penalties but violations witnessed by a police officer could be cited in legal cases.
“What I hope it does is educate drivers and cyclists, which I am both, more about bike safety. We have about six fatalities a year involving cyclists and drivers. “
Pam Thomas, president of Bluegrass Cycling Club, which has about 900 members, said the focus of the new law is education.
“We’re not interested in getting a lot of people prosecuted. We’re interested in promoting safety,” she said.
Information about the new bike law is to be contained in new drivers’ safety manuals published by the state.
The Kentucky Constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature unless they have a special effective date, are general appropriations measures, or include an emergency clause that makes them effective immediately upon becoming law.
Final adjournment of this year’s legislative session was on April 14, making July 14 the effective date for most bills.
Other laws taking effect Saturday, according to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, include:
Abstinence Education. Senate Bill 71 will require the inclusion of abstinence education in any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum in Kentucky high schools.
Breweries. House Bill 136 will increase what breweries can sell onsite to three cases and two kegs per customer. The new law will also allow breweries to sell one case per customer at fairs and festivals in wet jurisdictions.
Dyslexia. House Bill 187 will require the state Department of Education to make a “dyslexia toolkit” available to school districts to help them identify and instruct students who display characteristics of dyslexia.
Financial literacy. House Bill 132 will require Kentucky high school students to pass a financial literacy course before graduating.
Foster care and adoption. House Bill 1 will take steps to reform the state’s foster care and adoption system to ensure that a child’s time in foster care is limited and that children are returned to family whenever possible. It will expand the definition of blood relative for child placement and ensure that children in foster care are reunified with family or placed in another permanent home in a timely manner.
Organ donation. House Bill 84 will require coroners or medical examiners to release identifying and other relevant information about a deceased person to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates if the person’s wish to be an organ donor is known and the body is suitable for medical transplant or therapy.
Police cameras. House Bill 373 will exempt some police body camera footage from being publicly released. It will exempt the footage from certain situations being released if it shows the interior of private homes, medical facilities, women’s shelters and jails or shows a dead body, evidence of sexual assault, nude bodies and children.
Prescription medicines. Senate Bill 6 will require pharmacists to provide information about safely disposing of certain prescription medicines, such as opiates and amphetamines.
Price gouging. Senate Bill 160 will clarify laws that prevent price gouging during emergencies. The bill specifies that fines could be imposed if retailers abruptly increase the price of goods more than 10 percent when the governor declares a state of emergency.
Revenge porn. House Bill 71 will increase penalties for posting sexually explicit images online without the consent of the person depicted. The crime would be a misdemeanor for the first offense and felony for subsequent offenses. Penalties would be even more severe if the images were posted for profit.
Teen marriage. Senate Bill 48 will prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from marrying. It will also require a district judge to approve the marriage of any 17-year-old.
Terrorism. Senate Bill 57 will allow a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist instate court.
Shared parenting. House Bill 528 makes Kentucky the first state in the nation to establish a blanket presumption “that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interest of the child” in every divorce case. The law includes provisions to disqualify unfit parents based on histories of domestic violence or mental health problems as well as physical distance that would make co-parenting impractical.