Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How Close Is Too Close?

No, I am not talking about giving your child room on the back of your bike:

but about laws regarding vehicles passing bicycles. 

Various states have a law defining safe passing. Many of these are vague like at a safe distance while some are more specific. The most common specific distance is 3 feet which most cyclist seem to like. There are similar laws outside the USA, but I did not research them, yet. One in Nova Scotia, Canada gives you a little more room since it is 1 meter instead of 3 feet.

How does your state handle it? Here is a map summarizing the laws regarding passing a bicycle.

Alaska, the District of Columbia and Georgia seems to have no law about safe passing. Most states (Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming) just state you must pass at a safe distance without specifying what is considered safe.

North Carolina and Virginia define safe as 2 feet while Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin all define 3 feet as a safe distance. My favorite is the New Hampshire law which specifies a 3 feet minimum increasing as the speed of the car increases. Oregon defines safe distance as room for the cyclist to fall into the driver's path.

You can find a more detailed summary with links to the laws at www.safe-route.org.

Some form of a 3 foot passing law seems to be catching on. If you get a chance, I would suggest advocating for the 3 foot minimum that increases as the speed of the overtaking vehicle increases.

The 3 foot passing idea has caught on enough for 3feetplease.com to offer jerseys for states with a law and without a law. They even offer a 1 meter version for Canada.

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