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New bicycle safety law now in effect

November 15, 2010

By GWEN SISSON
sdnlife@bellsouth.net

Mississippi bicyclists have a few new safety regulations as they are wheeling down the road, and drivers are required to give them a little room.
A new state law takes a fresh approach to bicycle safety and places Mississippi as a leader in bicycle safety legislation nationwide.
Earlier this year, the state of Mississippi passed the Frerer Act, which requires motorists to leave at least three feet between their car and a cyclist when passing on any road in Mississippi.
This new state-wide law went into effect on July 1 and was named after John Paul Frerer, a man from North Mississippi who was struck and killed by a vehicle while cycling.
Devon Brenner, president of Starkville in Motion, said those who worked to get the legislation passed for the Frerer Act hope that Mississippi roads will be safer for cyclists and motorists alike.
“I’m very excited about this law (the Frerer Act),” Brenner said. “I appreciate that the law makes the requirements explicit for both cyclists and drivers.”
The law also states that cars may not make a right turn in front of a cyclist traveling in the same direction unless the turn can be made safely.
“Bikes are a vital means of transportation for some of our citizens and a way of recreation and exercise for many of us, and they have every right to use the road,” Brenner said.
“The law helps protect those rights. Drivers on the roads in and around Starkville are usually very respectful of cyclists and leave ample space, but a few are not, and come too close to bikes on the side of the road.”
Brenner said the three-feet-to-pass part of the law gives a concrete guide that drivers can follow.
“Three feet is about one arm’s length,” Brenner said. “It’s easy to remember.”
The law also reminds cyclists that they need to follow the same laws and rules as driver and strengthens the guidelines for cyclists. For example, cyclists need to ride on the side of the road and they should not ride more than two bikes side-by-side.
The law state that bicyclists must ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of a road, except when passing, turning, or avoiding road hazards.
“It’s important for all users to share the road in a respectful and friendly way,” Brenner said.
“We’re pleased that this law recognizes that bicycles belong on the road and share the same responsibilities as cars. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and this law helps make Mississippi roads that much safer.”
This new legislation puts Mississippi as a leader nationwide in bicycle safety.
“Mississippi now stands out as a leader in the cycling world,” said Josh Sullivan, president of Jackson Metro Cyclists and supporter of the legislation. “We are one of the few states in the nation to adopt a ‘Three Feet Law,’ which clearly defines the relationship between motorists and cyclists.”
Brenner said Missississippi becomes more and more bike friendly as more and more cyclists use the road.
“I’ve seen a real growth in bike riding in Starkville over the last five years,” Brenner said.
“Now I see people riding their bikes every day, no matter what the weather.”
The new law also makes it a crime to hassle a cyclist.
“Unfortunately, some drivers will shout insults or even throw rocks or trash at bicyclists on the side of the road,” Brenner said. “We need to make sure that that never happens again, and the law is one tool we can use.”
To read the full version of the newly enacted law, visit the SIM website at http://www.starkvilleinmotion.org.

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