City officials are hoping to educate residents about the newly implemented Safe Passing ordinance in order to make roads safer for pedestrians and other non-motorists.
Implemented March 19, the Safe Passing ordinance stipulates that automobiles and small trucks must give at least three feet of clearance when passing “vulnerable road users,” while commercial motor vehicles must give six feet. City officials have begun to familiarize the public with the ordinance by giving it the slogan “steer clear.”
The ordinance now includes a fine for vehicles parked in bike lanes, said Mayor Daniel Guerrero. He hopes the ordinance will benefit the city overall by providing additional safety to vulnerable road users.
According to a Jan. 22 University Star article, the phrase “vulnerable road users” includes pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, skateboarders, equestrians, physically disabled people, construction and maintenance workers, tow truck operators, stranded motorists and farm equipment operators.
“It’s a safe initiative to try to get protection for anybody that is a vulnerable road user,” Guerrero said. “We’re trying to create an environment where they’ll have added protection enforcement.”
Matthew Lewis, director of Planning and Development Services, said implementation of the “steer clear” slogan and promotional program is in full effect. The city plans to analyze the highest population densities, identify them and connect those areas with surrounding bike facilities, Lewis said.
“The higher the population density, the more likely people are to ride bicycles, and the more people you have riding bikes, the safer it becomes because people become familiar with the traffic laws both in vehicles and on bikes,” Lewis said.
The city plans to incorporate the slogan into press releases, social media and its webpage in order to make the public aware of the message, said City Spokeswoman Melissa Millecam. The city is checking with the transportation department to gain permission to use the slogan on street signs.
“We think it would be very effective to have so all motor vehicles and vulnerable road users will be aware of the new regulation,” Millecam said.
Tamara Piper, owner of the local Pedal Power Bicycles shop, said the education for vehicle operators to give cyclists and other vulnerable road users a little extra room on the roadways will make drivers aware that people on bikes are normal road users.
“Some people think cyclists are supposed to be on the sidewalk,” Piper said. “There are some that literally do not know that it is okay and correct for cyclists to be on the road.”
Any convicted violator of the ordinance will face fines of up to $200, according to the city’s website. There will be a fine of up to $50 for those ticketed for parking in a bicycle lane.
In the past five years, San Marcos has experienced 152 collisions, including 10 fatalities, between vehicles and pedestrians or bicycles, according to a press release from the city.