Sudbury cyclists to ride with pool noodles to show 1-metre rule

Motorists are required to leave at least a one metre gap when passing a cyclist. But do they know what that looks like? The Sudbury Cyclists Union is using pool noodles to help drivers visualize the space.

The fine for not giving cyclists enough space is $110 and two demerit points

Rachelle Niemela is one of the Sudbury cyclists using a pool noodle to demonstrate to drivers how much space the law says they have to leave between their car and someone on a bike. (Erik White/CBC)

How significant is a metre of space? That is the distance that drivers are required by law to leave between the side of their vehicles and a cyclist they are passing along a street or road in Ontario.

The one-metre rule was added to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act in August 2015. But not all motorists are familiar with the new law, says Rachelle Niemela, chair of the Sudbury Cyclists Union.

And that's why the group is starting an educational campaign to show what the gap looks like.

Niemela says cyclists will attach foam pool noodles to their bikes' handlebars. The noodle will stick out one metre from the edge of the bike to show how much space they need.

Too many close calls

Too many cyclists have had close calls while pedaling in heavy traffic in Greater Sudbury, Niemela says.

"They're in a hurry. They need to get somewhere and they give you about six inches of room as they pass," Niemela said.

"That's not too bad if it's a bottleneck and if the traffic is slow, but when cars are going by you at 60- or 70-kilometres-an-hour, that can be pretty scary."

The fine for not leaving one-metre of space when passing a cyclist is $110 and two demerit points.

Niemela says more details about the campaign will be revealed at the Sudbury Cyclists Union annual general meeting on April 4, at 7 p.m., at the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University.

City planning cycling improvements

The guest speaker at the meeting will be Marisa Talarico, Greater Sudbury's newly hired active transportation co-ordinator.

Niemela says she is excited about what Talarico will have to say about the future of cycling in Sudbury. She notes the city has plans to improve cycling infrastructure along specific streets.

The Sudbury Cycling Union has been told those plans could include a raised cycling track along the Notre Dame Avenue and Paris Street corridor.

Other streets being considered for cycling infrastructure improvements are Lasalle Boulevard, Barrydowne Road, Second Avenue, Bancroft Drive, Kelly Lake Road and Lorne Street.

In the meantime, Niemela says she hopes the upcoming improvements will provide some relief for cycling enthusiasts who may be too afraid to take their bikes out in busy Sudbury traffic.

"It's not only those who are currently on bike, it's all those other people who say, 'I would bike if I felt safer'," she said.

"I think that message has to get out ... there's more of us than people really think there are."


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