Florida has joined at least six other states that require motorists to give bicycle riders a minimum 3-foot gap when passing.
In announcing the law that went into effect on Sunday, Florida newspapers have filled their pages with anecdotes from cyclists who have been hit by passing cars or who frequently feel the rush of close-passing cars and trucks.
Bicycling advocates are hoping the new law will put a dent in the bicycle fatality totals in the state, where 124 cyclists died last year, three times the nationwide average per-capita, informs the St. Pete Times.
Violators could be fined $60, pay court costs and lose 3 points on their driver's license. Of course, they'll have to be caught.
The Spokes 'n' Folks blog posted an e-mail from Safety As Flordians Expect (SAFE) leader Jim Davis who complains that police were only being informed of the new law by their supervisors days before the law went into effect, six months after it was passed.
“The state, too has a responsibility. Where are the road signs that read 'It's the law, give 3-foot clearance when passing bicyclists'.”
Other states with the 3-foot law include Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.
Some of those laws have unexpected wrinkles.
In Arizona, the law carries a civil penalties of $500 if a cyclist is injured and $1,000 if a cyclist is killed because a motorist violated the 3-foot buffer. The law sets aside those penalties, however, if the cyclist is injured in a traffic lane when a bike lane or bike path is present.
Wisconsin requires the 3-foot buffer, but also requires a cyclist to give three feet when passing stopped or moving vehicles.
The Utah law, which was passed after the death of a Salt Lake City woman, leaves me scratching my head (is it 3 feet or is it reasonable?):
“An operator of a motor vehicle may not knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly operate a motor vehicle within three feet of a moving bicycle, unless the operator of the motor vehicle operates the motor vehicle within a reasonable and safe distance of the bicycle.” (my italics)
Attempts to pass similar laws in California, Texas and Missouri in recent years have failed. Just this week, a legislative committee in Montana threw out a provision that would require a 5-foot buffer for cyclists.
Curiously, the town of Grants Pass in southern Oregon has passed the 3-foot law on its own, reports Bike Portland.
Let's hope this law makes Florida a safer place to ride bikes.