Move over, motorists

Avid bicyclists will tell you that a nice, long ride is an invigorating experience. But sometimes it gets your heart pumping for all the wrong reasons.

"There's plenty of times when you feel like that car came within inches of you," said Jeff Provisor, who owns Carpentersville's Main Street Bicycles. "Thankfully, knock on wood, I've never come into contact with a car. Motorists feel like it's an entitlement thing, like, 'What are you doing in my lane?'"

To cut down on incidents like these, Illinois lawmakers passed a law this year that will take effect starting Tuesday. Senate Bill 80 provides that motorists must leave at least a three-foot cushion when passing bicyclists on the road.

It might be difficult to enforce, and many drivers remain ignorant about the three-foot passing law that already exists, proponents say. But at least now police will have a more clear, specific law, and a way to cite drivers when they clip -- or do worse to -- a bicyclist.

"Having it spelled out in the law, [it] will be incorporated into education, drivers ed," said Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, which was very active in helping draft SB 80. "I've heard of cases where that type of crash did occur and there was not a charge police knew of. Having a traffic offense listed will help the victim."

SB 90 might not seem like the most important piece of legislation passed in 2007, but motorists and bicyclists have run-ins very often, some of which are fatal. According to Illinois Department of Transportation statistics, there was an average of almost nine vehicle-bicycle accidents per day statewide in 2006. That same year, 26 bicyclists were killed in road mishaps.

The vast majority of accidents occur in Chicago, an IDOT spokesman said.

Several other states, including Wisconsin, have a similar statute.

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