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July 12, 2011

New law calls for Wichita drivers to steer clear of bicyclists

Drivers beware: You could get a ticket if you pass a bicyclist too closely.

Drivers beware: You could get a ticket if you pass a bicyclist too closely.

A new law approved by the Legislature this year and adopted Tuesday by the Wichita City Council requires drivers to give bicyclists at least 3 feet of buffer space when passing.

Those who are convicted of not doing so face a fine of up to $500.

The move is seen as a win by bicyclists who have had cars zip by them with only a few inches to spare.

And it comes as the city has been trying to make streets and parks more bicycle-friendly by adding on-street bike lanes and designing some new streets to accommodate off-street bike paths.

The council also adopted another new state law that allows motorcyclists and bicyclists to ride through red lights when they've already stopped for a reasonable amount of time and there's no traffic.

It will be up to police officers and judges to decide what a reasonable amount of time is, according to City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf.

The new law is intended to keep motorcyclists from being stranded at stoplights that won't change because the bikes aren't heavy enough to set off sensors in the street that control the sequence of the signal.

Cars will still have to wait for the lights to change.

The state laws on passing bicyclists and going through red lights were effective July 1, but the city didn't adopt the laws until Tuesday.

Mirroring state law allows the city to prosecute in municipal court instead of District Court.

Both new laws will be effective this week.

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