The Tri-County Bicycle Association (TCBA) is working to pass ordinances in the tri-county area (Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties) requiring motorists to keep a distance of at least five feet from bicyclists. TCBA is a volunteer advocacy group promoting biker safety.
Safety is the top concern for getting these laws passed. The Advocacy Committee of the TCBA knew that things needed to change. “[T]he present statewide law is confusing,” said Michael Unsworth, a former MSU librarian and current member of the TCBA. “It’s the motorist’s perspective of what is safe, not a cyclist’s.” He said the law currently in place is not worded properly. “The ‘safe distance’ language does not provide a clearly defined standard for patrol officers to use,” he said. A key aspect of the proposed ordinances is that motorists can pass a double yellow line in order to maintain the five-foot safe distance.
“We’ll be rolling out our campaign in the next month or two” Unsworth said. “It will be an incremental process because we’ll be approaching individual villages, cities, townships, and counties to pass their own safe passing distance ordinances.”
More than half of all bicycle crashes occur when the biker is moving directly forward. “Large vehicles produce strong air currents which can knock cyclists off course if they pass too closely,” Unsworth said. “This is especially dangerous given the bad conditions of our area’s roads.” He also mentioned the apathy of drivers, saying that some motorists even pass too close to bikers to intimidate them.
When asked why others should care about such a law, Unsworth is adamant: “[T]here is a solid need for such a law. People should care about preventing crashes.” Through the law, the TCBA hopes to “promote mutual respect for motorists and cyclists on streets and roads.”
The Advocacy Committee of the TCBA was formally created in 2012. The group holds monthly meetings to discuss bikers’ concerns. The TCBA is also currently working on Complete Streets policies, which make sure that roads are designed with everyone in mind, not just motorists. In addition, they are working on safe bicycling classes and a “Non-Motorized Transportation Plan for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.”
When asked about potential backlash regarding the ordinance, Unsworth understands that there might be some complaints. “Some drivers don’t want to slow down,” he said. “[But] I don’t think saving a few minutes is worth the risk of killing or injuring a person who has absolutely no protection.”
In addition to advocacy, The TCBA works on special projects and events. It hosts bicycle rides and tours that are held both daily and weekly. Their biggest event is the Dick Allen to Mackinaw Bicycle Tour (DALMAC) which is held every year around Labor Day.