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Grand Rapids drivers must give bikes more room under new "safe-passing" law

car and bicyclist riding side by side in the road
Flicker user Richard Masoner

A small but growing number of Michiganders are turning to their bicycles as a means to get from Point A to Point B.

We've seen communities put in bike lanes to accommodate bicyclists, but that doesn't necessarily solve the tensions between cars and bikes sharing the road.

Grand Rapids has just approved new bicycle rules that will force cars to wait for bicycles.

Jay Fowler is the executive director of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, and he told us about the new rule.

He says the rule establishes a safe buffer zone for bikes. When a car approaches a bike in a lane, the car has to slow and wait until it’s clear and pass with a five-foot gap between the right side of the car and the bicycle.

“It’s really asking for the drivers to treat the bicycle like any other slow-moving vehicle. If you were to come across a tractor, typically you would wait until it’s clear, and then you would move out and pass the tractor in the road, and so you would treat a bicycle the same way.”

Fowler says there are 26 states with a “safe-passing” law for bikes. Michigan is not one of those, so they pushed for an ordinance in Grand Rapids.

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