Local cyclists applaud new Ohio law giving them wide berth

CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – Beginning Tuesday, drivers need to give plenty of room to those on two wheels and pedaling. A new law is now in effect in Ohio requiring drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing them on the road.

Prosecutors hope the change in the law will cause drivers to remember they’re not the only ones with rights to be on the road.

Triathlete Curt Masters runs the Trailside Bike Shop in Canfield. He said there are some things he’s become used to when riding his bicycle. He’s heard comments and even seen objects thrown out the window at cyclists.

A year ago while training in Salem for a competition, Masters was riding along when a vehicle passed him, the driver’s side mirror barely missing his shoulder.

“He swerved into me and eventually slammed on his brakes and turned into me,” Masters said.

The driver, Steven Bauman, 71, was convicted on felonious assault and traffic charges for causing Masters to crash into his pickup. Cases like this may have pushed state lawmakers to require drivers to give at least three feet – the length of a yard stick – when passing a cyclist.

“I think perhaps the intention of the law is to draw attention to the public to the issue facing cyclists and other persons driving slowly on the roadways,” said Attorney John Gamble.

Gamble prosecuted Bauman and both he and Masters admit the new law probably would not have prevented this incident, but they hope it will protect others in the future.

“People get buzzed on the road a good bit, and I think motorists aren’t paying attention or they just don’t understand,” Masters said.

Those caught breaking the new law would face a minor misdemeanor on a first offense. When Bauman is sentenced in May, he’ll face at least two years behind bars.