Grand Rapids 5 Foot Passing Ordinance - Reminder.

Radar measuring equipment and video recorder used to document passing motorists.

Radar measuring equipment and video recorder used to document passing motorists.

In 2015 Grand Rapids passed a city ordinance requiring motorists to leave a minimum of 5 feet between cars and cyclists when cars pass on streets. In years since, it’s been accompanied by media programs to inform the public, using billboards, city bus graphics, social networks and news media. Motorists and cyclists have both benefitted from those programs. Good stuff and a great city.

In the spring of 2018, a study was initiated to measure passing clearances between cars and bicycles so results of the latest media program might be evaluated. 6 riders were part of the study and they used distance measuring radar on their bicycles as they rode city streets in all 3 wards. Findings of the study were regularly published on signs around town and noted anywhere from 69-83% compliance with the 5 foot passing distance by motorists. The study period ran from June 2018 through January 2019.

During nearly the same time as the study, the Grand Rapids Police Department used their own riders and assisting officers in police cruisers to measure and begin enforcement of passing clearances. They pulled over 146 motorists and issued warnings about the new ordinance. 3 motorists were ticketed when the officers sensed it was appropriate for the situation. On several occasions the GRPD actually pulled motorists over by catching up to them on bicycles. That’s an interesting concept.

All in all, last years media program and study results were interpreted as positive for cyclist-motorist interactions. During 2018, car-bicycle accidents were the lowest since 2008 and we had zero fatalities of cyclists in the city. So if you’re in a car, here’s a reminder to please leave 5 feet minimum clearance when passing cyclists. If you’re on a bike, please obey traffic laws like motorists and be careful out there. If we all do that, maybe we can get even better results this year.

Test equipment in use. Police use a similar setup.

Test equipment in use. Police use a similar setup.