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The Fargo owner of a bicycle business believes it’s time for the state to approve a safe passing law to protect bicyclists.

Tom Smith, owner of Great Northern Bicycle Co., said most drivers provide a safe distance when passing bicyclists, but having a law “... validates the cyclists’ right to the roadways.” The Tribune editorial board favors safety measures for everyone using the streets and highways; however, we are not sure a safe passing law would make any difference. However, it might be something at least worth talking about.

There hasn’t been any recent interest in the Legislature in adopting a measure. A safe passing bill hasn’t been introduced in the Legislature during the last four sessions, according to Christopher Joseph of the North Dakota Legislative Council. At present, the state has no safe passing law.

Safety requires common sense whether it involves bicycles, motorcycles or vehicles. Cyclists and motorists need to show mutual respect. There are times when cyclists can be more courteous. They need to know and follow the rules, be aware when traffic begins to stack up and motion drivers around them.

In recent years, Bismarck has added biking lanes on some streets to give bikers a designated place to ride. The city also has a number of walking-riding paths for those who want to avoid traffic.

Bismarck has ordinances governing bicyclists. Generally, bikers must follow the same ordinances as motorists. Under city ordinance, bikers can’t use sidewalks in business districts unless otherwise designated. Bikers must yield the right of way to pedestrians, and they are expected to ride single file.

Motorists also must be willing to share the road with cyclists and not be annoyed by them. Some drivers change lanes quickly without signaling, just like some bicyclists dart in and out of traffic. These type of maneuvers result in accidents.

Smith, the bicycle business owner, told Forum News Service that a safe passing law is just one part of safety. Traffic volume, shoulder width, road conditions and the attentiveness of drivers all play a role in safety.

Cities across the country have taken different approaches to bicyclists. Lincoln, Neb., has been considering adding 120 miles of bike paths and uses different types of bike lanes throughout the city.

Forty-two states have approved safe passing laws that require a certain amount of space, say 3-4 feet, when a motorist passes a bicyclist. That’s common sense, and we have a lot of laws that remind people to use common sense.

It would be beneficial, if for no other reason than to have a discussion, if a legislator introduced a safe passing bill in the 2021 Legislature. The Bismarck-Mandan community has some wonderful bicycling opportunities during the warm months. We should always consider ways to make cycling safer.

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