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Minimum Three in Tennessee: Making Roads Safe for All 
Chief Thomas speaking at the press conference

Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas announced Thursday a new local campaign called “Minimum Three in Tennessee” that aims to raise awareness of the Three Foot Law (TCA-55-8-175), which requires drivers to allow a minimum three-foot distance when passing cyclists on the road.

Officers demonstrated new ultrasonic devices that are making it possible to regularly enforce the law, giving cyclists hope for safer travels. The device measures the distance in inches between the bike and passing cars, alerting the officer if the gap is lower than 36 inches (or three feet).

Device display
One of the devices that KPD officers will be using displays "24" (inches) after an intentional "buzz" close drive by at the press conference demonstration.

“City streets thrive when all of its users—motorists and bicyclists alike—adhere to the law,” said Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas. “Traffic laws are established to save lives and keep all members of the community safe, so we’re happy to get behind this campaign to raise awareness of the Three Foot Law.”

City Council joined the press announcement
City Council members George Wallace, Stephanie Welch, Gwen McKenzie, and Marshall Stair joined KPD officers, Bike Walk Knoxville members, and TPO representatives in the Minimum Three in Tennessee campaign announcement on Thursday.

Initially, warnings will be issued for violations in an effort to raise awareness of the law. Eventually, a $50 penalty will accompany the offense.

The new devices were made available as part of a research effort funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The national study will compare Knoxville to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has a five-foot minimum.

Amy Benner Johnson, Secretary for Bike Walk Knoxville, was largely responsible for securing the grant. Her pursuit of a campaign to raise awareness of the Three Foot Law was inspired by a similar effort of Officer Rob Simmons of the Chattanooga Police Department.

Johnson also serves as a board member for Bike Walk Tennessee and is the only attorney in Tennessee that’s a member of Bike Law, a national coalition of bicycle accident attorneys.

Amy Benner Johnson speaks

“This law was passed in Tennessee over a decade ago because people are dying,” said Johnson. “This is not a campaign to pit cars versus bikes, but an effort that enables cars and bikes to safely and effectively share the road.”

In addition to data collected from undercover police officers on bikes, a team of civilian commuters will carry the devices to assist with the national study.

Over the next six months, KPD and the local cyclists will submit data collected with the devices to the NHTSA grant representatives. The City’s Communications Department will report the findings periodically over social media efforts in collaboration with Bike Walk Knoxville and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

Officer Steve Kaufman demonstrates the new device
Officer Steve Kaufman demonstrates the device at the press conference.

For more information, visit www.knoxvilletn.gov/min3tn.

Check out some of Thursday's media coverage of the campaign announcement:

WVLT - media clip

WATE - media clip
WBIR - media clip

Amy Johnson also had an op-ed in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Thursday. Check it out HERE.

Posted by On 25 September, 2018 at 3:47 PM