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West Michigan police train on distance measuring radar to enforce bike passing laws

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A local police department is one of two departments in the country using new technology to protect bicyclists on the road.

Cities like Kalamazoo, Portage and Grand Rapids have a 5-foot passing law and Michigan passed a 3-feet law. A new technology can show how far the distance is between a vehicle and a bicyclist.

Police officers spent the day circling several Grand Rapids corridors riding bicycles mounted with an ultrasonic radar with the capability to capture and display the passing distance between vehicles and bicyclists.

City of Grand Rapids Traffic Safety Manager Chris Zull said, “We've actually been riding around the city for about a month collecting pre-data with some of our incognito riders and now we're moving towards the police officers.”

The officers are collecting the data in hopes of figuring out enforcement strategies and to help with a federally funded study. The researchers are looking at cities with 5-feet passing laws versus cities with a 3-feet passing law.

Dunlap and Associates President Richard Blomberg said, “We want to see what differences does the 5-foot law really move people farther away from the bicycle and will the enforcement get people in greater compliance.”

Paul Selden, founder of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo, said, “By in large, Drivers are respectful of the new ordinances, but not everyone}

Selden said radar devices, which have been in use in cities like Chattanooga and Austin, could be beneficial in Kalamazoo.

He said, “It’s got to be a goal that we all understand we're all into it together as a community and we're working together to make it safer for everyone.”

The researchers in Grand Rapids believe their work analyizing driving behavior in West Michigan could one day impact national policy.

Blomberg said, “That's how a lot of our laws, like school bus stop laws and others have come into being, they got tested somewhere and worked well.”

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