Would you be surprised to learn that there’s been a new law on the books since January that drivers have to give biker rider’s a one metre buffer, from the tip of the handlebars to the edge of the passenger side mirror? It’s true, but you might be hard pressed to find someone on the road that knows about it, and you might be harder pressed to think of a way that the Guelph Police Service can enforce it. Until now…
At a demonstration at the University of Guelph Thursday, the Guelph Police Service showed off a device borrowed from the Ottawa Police. Called the C3FT, or BSMART for Bicyclist and Safe Monitoring Applied Radar Technology, the device, which is designed and built in Texas, is mounted to the handle bars of a police bicycle, and it sounds an alarm if a car comes within three feet* of the bike.
*Three feet being approximately one metre give or take. Several U.S. jurisdictions have “three-foot rules” like Ontario’s new “one-metre rule”. The company that manufactures the devices, Codaxus LLC, will be releasing a metric version of the C3FT next week.
“Our hope is that we’ll have an opportunity to purchase one or more of these for our community. We have officers trained in the Guelph Police, bylaw, as well as the University of Guelph police, and we’re hoping to attach this device, for the first part, for an educational component,” said Sgt. Dan Mosey. “If you go out there and hit people hard with fines, that doesn’t accomplish what you want to do, we want to educate people.”
Fines are also impossible to issue without precise measurement, which is why the police have been unable to enforce the new law despite complaints, on and off social media, about motorists getting too close for the comfort of cyclists. “It is for the very reason we haven’t had a way of measuring it until now,” Mosey said. In other words, it would be like issuing a speeding ticket because an enforcement officer thinks a car is going to fast without using their radar device.
A group that includes the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit, the City of Guelph, the University of Guelph, and the Guelph Police Service are trying to find ways to disarm the adversarial relationship between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. “Those are the ones that result in the most injuries, and as a traffic investigator I know that any time we get a collision between a car and a cyclist or a pedestrian there will be injuries, and that’s where a lot of our deaths come in province-wide,” said Mosey.
As shown in the video below, a traffic stop using the C3FT device will involve an officer riding his or her bike armed with the device, who, when they see people infracting, will radio ahead for a fellow officer to pull them over. The first phase will be awareness, and Mosey hopes that will begin this September after the police are able to secure the purchase of a couple of the devices.