A 3-foot passing bill has been tabled in the Washington state legislature while a vote on one in Virginia is expected this week. Meanwhile, a bill in Oklahoma would impose fines for the existing 3-foot passing law there.
The Washington bill to require motorists to give bicyclists a 3-foot gap when passing (expanded to 5 feet at 35 mph or above) has been tabled at the request of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington because of other controversial aspects of the legislation.
The passing provision was included in HB 1018, entitled the Mutual Responsibilities bill, which was an attempt to define what is required for motor vehicles and bicycles to safely share the road.
The Seattle Bike Blog reports that some parts of that bill were “not well-received by many in the bicycling community.” The major problem involved language that required cyclists to use the bike lanes or shoulders, if they determined that it was safe to ride there.
After introducing the bill, Rep. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle, told the Seattle P-I that a previous 3-foot passing bill wasn't enacted because legislators wanted language that spelled out what bicyclists must do. He said the Mutual Responsibilities bill was an attempt “to signal it's the responsibility of everybody using the roadways to avoid collisions.”
The BAW newsletter summarized:
“There were many good elements to the bill, including a definition for safe passing and providing bicyclists the same protections as pedestrians when they were in trail crossings, crosswalks and sidewalks.
“While we conducted outreach with clubs across Washington, attorneys within the bicycling community, and solicited extensive input from within our own organization, we received extensive comments from cyclists both in favor and in opposition. In light of this, the Bicycle Alliance has chosen not to pursue the bill and the sponsors have agreed to table it.”
Meanwhile, members of a Virginia House subcommittee on transportation are expected to vote on HB 1683 this week. The bill expands the distance to pass bicycles from two to three feet and prohibits motorists from following bicyclists more closely than is reasonable.
The Virginia Bicycling Coalition urges its members that it's “imperative” to contact legislators on the subcommittee and support the bill. The Coalition lists subcommittee members with email and office phone numbers.
In 2006, Oklahoma enacted a law requiring motorists to “exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three (3) feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.”
Now, SB 951 reinforces the requirement by establishing a new fine of $500 when observed by a police officer. The bill also raises the penalty for hitting and injuring a bicyclist to $1,000; if the cyclist is killed the motorist faces a $5,000 fine as well as other penalties.
Further, the bill makes it a felony to throw anything at a bicyclist, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.