COLUMBUS (WCMH) — House Bill 154’s intent was to loosen red light restrictions for bicyclists who use main roads, but the wording allows it to impact all motorists and, for now, running a red light in Ohio is legal under certain circumstances.
Traffic signal sensors rely on the weight of a vehicle to let it know when the light needs to change, but bicycles don’t always carry enough weight to alert the sensor.
“What this bill was designed to do was, in that situation, is allow the bicyclist to make a decision that it’s clear to proceed and go ahead and move through the red light,” says Lt. Robert Sellers of the Ohio State Patrol.
But the wording allows all on the road to take advantage of the law. A new bill is currently being fast-tracked to allow only bicycles to be affected, so Sellers recommends motorists continue to treat red lights as they always have.
If an officer cites an individual for running a red light under the current law, the driver would then have to prove in court that the signal was malfunctioning.
“They’ve left a little wiggle room in this,” explains attorney Steve Palmer of Yavitch and Palmer, Co. L.P.A. “You could argue that the detector wasn’t working or you didn’t think it was working and you could honestly believe that in good faith and comply with this law without stopping at a red light.”
But a traffic citation might not be worth the short wait.
“Just because there’s this law written, presumably to protect bicyclists, I don’t think that gives any of us the green light, so to speak, to run the red light,” Palmer adds.
The legislation also includes a new law that states motorists must have at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicycle on the road.