A new law in effect since January requires all drivers in Ontario to give cyclists one metre of space when passing them.

Charges have been laid under that law in Guelph – but only when there has been actual physical content between a car and a bicycle. Police say there’s

“We’ve had no way to measure exactly what that one metre is,” says Acting Sgt. Dan Mosey.

That’s where a special device owned by the Ottawa Police Service comes in.

The device can be attached to a bicycle. It uses a sonar system to measure the distance between itself and passing cars.

A beacon lights up if the distance is less than three feet. Then user gets a readout showing the distance in feet. (The device is manufactured in Texas. A metric version doesn’t exist yet.)

In practice, the police officer operating the device can then contact a colleague down the road with instructions to pull over the vehicle for not leaving enough space.

Guelph Police have loaned the device for this week. They’re not using it to help issuing tickets – only to warn drivers about the law.

The cost of one device is about $3,000. Mosey, who works in the traffic branch, says he hopes funds will be set aside to purchase one for use in Guelph.

He says he sees it as an important piece of the road safety puzzle – a puzzle which can only be solved if cyclists, pedestrians and drivers are all thinking of each other.

“There seems to be an adversarial relationship between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists as to who’s entitled to use what and who’s obeying what laws,” Mosey says.

“We need to get a consistent message out there.”

Drivers ticketed for passing cyclists too closely can face fines of $110 and the loss of three demerit points.

With reporting by Abigail Bimman