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24 states require motorists give 3 feet or more when passing cyclist

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Update: Sept. 16, 2014 — Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia require that motorists give bicyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.

California became the newest 3-foot passing state after its law went into effect on Sept. 16. Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. signed the bill (AB 1371)  a year ago.

Gov. Brown vetoed the two previous bills. In 2012, he cited potential liability problems regarding a provision that allowed motorists to pass on a double-yellow line if that were the only way to give a cyclist 3 feet of space.

The only other governor to reject a 3-foot passing bill has been Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Virginia’s 3-foot passing law became effective on July 1, 2014, and West Virginia’s law went into effect on June 3, 2014.

Ohio currently has a 3-foot passing bill in the legislature. House Bill 145 is currently before the House chamber after passing out of the House Transportation Committee.

Four-foot gap

In 2011, Pennsylvania enacted a bill  that requires a 4-foot gap.

In reporting on the Pennsylvania bill, the York Daily Record succinctly explained its importance:

“The intent of the new law is pretty clear. Recognize bicyclists as part of the transportation mix and follow some basic rules of the road to ensure the safety for all.”



24 states

The 24 states with 3-foot (or more) laws are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (4 feet), Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Washington DC also requires a 3-foot passing gap.

The state of Washington requires that motorcycles give bicyclists 3 feet of space when passing in the same lane. The requirement was added as an amendment to SB 5263 in 2013, which sought to require motorcyclists to change lanes before passing other motor vehicles, but not when passing bicyclists. The amendment suggested by Washington Bikes is the first 3-foot requirement in the state and advocates consider it a foundation to expanding to all motor vehicles in the future.

See links below.

At least five recommend 3 feet in driver’s manuals; four require a safe distance without specifications.

Other new additions to list

Nevada became the 19th state with a 3-foot passing law on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, after Gov. Bryan Sandoval signed Senate Bill 248 in law on May 19.

Also in 2011, Kansas and Georgia became the 17th and 18th states requiring that motorists give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when they pass. Those laws went into effect on July 1.

Meanwhile, at least nine cities in Texas have ratified 3-foot passing bill. That follows Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s veto in 2010 of a statewide 3-foot law that had gained legislature approval but faced opposition from special interests.

Montgomery, Ala., also passed a 3-foot passing ordinance for the city in 2012.

3-foot buffer zone states

Arizona: “When overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, a person driving a motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet …” Sets fines if violation causes death or injury. (Doesn’t apply if bicyclist is not using an adjacent bike lane or bike path.) Enacted in 2000.

Arkansas: “… pass to the left at a safe distance of not less 3 feet…” Sets fines in case of death or injury. Enacted in 2007.

California: A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. … If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway. (Effective 2014)

Colorado: The law requires motorists give bicycles at least 3 feet or risk a $110 fine. Also states anyone who throws an object at bicyclist be charged with class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a $250 to $1,000 fine and 3 to 12 month jail sentence. (Enacted in 2009; went into effect Aug. 5)

Connecticut: “… safe distance means not less than three feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a person riding a bicycle.” (Enacted 2008)

Florida: “… must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.” See also Florida Bicycle Law guide published by the Florida Bicycle Association. Enacted 2006.

Georgia “… the term ‘safe distance’ means not less than three feet. … the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.” House Bill 101 signed into law May 11; went into effect July 2011. See Georgia Bikes! press release. Enacted 2011.

Illinois: “… leave a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet…” Enacted 2007.

Kansas: “The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a distance of not less than three feet …” Passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback on April 15. [The bill also allows bicyclists and
motorcyclists to pass through red lights they cannot trigger. See Kansas Cyclist for details.] Enacted 2011.

Louisiana: Motor vehicle operator “shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.” Also includes anti-harassment provision. See “Louisiana governor signs 3-foot rule”

Maine: “… exercise due care by leaving a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than 3 feet …” See also Bicycle Coalition of Maine: New Bicycle Laws. Enacted 2007.

Maryland: “…when overtaking a bicycle, …. pass safely at a distance of not less than 3 feet …” Enacted 2010.

Mississippi: Requires 3 feet when passing, and forbids throwing objects at bicyclists from cars. Enacted 2010.

Minnesota: ” … shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet
clearance, when passing the bicycle or individual …” Enacted 2004.

Nebraska: LB1030 require a motorist “overtaking a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device proceeding in the same direction shall exercise due care, which shall include, but not be limited to, leaving a safe distance of no less than three feet clearance, when applicable, when passing a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device.”

Nevada: SB 248 requires motorists to pass safely by “passing to the left of the bicycle or electric bicycle at a distance of not less than 3 feet from the bicycle or electric bicycle. Passed by legislature and signed in law by Gov. Bryan Sandoval. Enacted 2011.

New Hampshire: “… the distance shall be deemed to be reasonable and prudent if it is at leat 3 feet when the vehicle is traveling at 30 mph or less, with one additional foot of clearance for every 10 mph above 30 mph.” (Enacted 2008)

Oklahoma: “… 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.” Enacted 2006

Pennsylvania: The bill requires motorists to pass bicyclists “within not less than 4 feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed.” Enacted 2012.

Tennessee: Creates a subsection known as “Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007 … shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and bicycle bof not less than three feet and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.” Enacted 2007

Utah: “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.” Enacted 2006

Virginia: Any driver of any vehicle overtaking a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicyclemoped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a reasonable speed at least two three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycleelectric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicyclemoped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle and shall not again proceed to the right side of the highwayuntil safely clear of such overtaken bicycleelectric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle,moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle. (Effective 2014)

West Virginia: (2) The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle traveling in the same direction shall pass to the left of the bicycle at a distance of not less than three feet at a careful and reduced speed, and may not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle. (Effective 2014)

(b) Any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100; upon a second conviction within one year thereafter, shall be fined not more than $200; and upon a third or subsequent conviction, shall be fined not more than $500.

Wisconsin: “… shall exercise due care, leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than 3 feet clearance when passing the bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device…” Enacted 1973 (!). See also Safety and Consumer Protection: Motorist reminders… “Leave at least three feet when passing bicycles, more room at higher speeds.”

And the District of Columbia: A person driving a motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than 3 feet, when overtaking and passing a bicycle. (18-2202 Overtaking and Passing)

[The state of Washington requires motorcyclists to give bicyclists 3 feet of space when passing them in the same lane -- SB 5263. There is no 3-foot minimum passing requirement for motor vehicles.]

Cities

Boise, Idaho:  City Council passes law requiring that cars leave 3 feet of space when passing a bicycle (also must yield to bicycles in intersections and cannot cut-off cyclists when turning) Also illegal to throw objects at bicyclists or otherwise harass them. (added Jan. 13, 2010)

Mobile, Alabama: City Council requires motorists give bicycle riders a 3-foot gap when passing. (news reports Oct. 25, 2011)

Other cities with 3-foot laws include Oklahoma City and Edmond, Oklahoma, as well as Austin, Fort Worth, Edinburgh, Beaumont, El Paso, Helotes, New Braunfels, San Antonio, and Denton, in Texas.

Safe distance states

New York has Merrill’s Law, which requires motorists to “keep a safe distance” when passing a bicyclist. Named for Merrill Cassell, 66, who was sideswiped by a bus and killed. Enacted in 2010.

Rhode Island enacted a law in 2010 that requires motorists pass at a safe distance, defined as a distance sufficient to prevent contact if the bicyclist were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.

South Carolina enacted a law in 2008 that requires a “safe operating distance” (not 3 feet per se).

Michigan’s motor vehicle code, section 257.636, says the driver of a vehicle overtaking a vehicle proceeding in the same director shall pass as a safe distance to the left of that vehicle. This applies to bicycles, as bikes are considered vehicles when they’re on the road.

Drivers’ manual states

Kentucky:  “Pass a cyclist only when it can be done safely, and give ample room (3 feet) between your car and the cyclist. … Give the cyclist extra room if your vehicle has extended outside review mirrors.” — page 66

Washington: “Space for bicyclists: … Allow three feet of space when overtaking or passing a bicyclist…” — pages 78 and 79.

Kansas: “When passing a bicyclist use extreme caution and pass four feet to the left of the bicyclist.” — page 24.

Texas: Although there’s no guidance for automobile, it is recommended that trucks and other large vehicles give six feet of clearance. “You should always allow at least six feet to the left of the two-wheeled vehicle when you are passing.” — page 15-20.

— Both Safe Route Connection.org and Arizona Bike Law blog had information that I relied upon in creating this list. The Safe Route Connection website has a state-by-state list of vehicle passing laws related to bicycles.



Bills submitted for 2011

Georgia — HB 101; enacted.

KansasHB 2192; 3-foot provision added to a seatbelt bill

Nevada — SB 248 passed and signed into law.

North Dakota — Rejected 17-29 after legislators couldn’t see “consistent and meaningful” enforcement, Grand Forks Herald

OklahomaSB 951 sets penalties for failure to give 3-foot gap and harassing; in committee

Rhode IslandWithdrawn; extended 2-foot law to 3 feet

Virginia – Tabled in Transporation Committee

WashingtonWithdrawn; part of a “mutual responsibilities bill” that was not well received by bicyclists; Seattle Bike Blog

Wyoming – Failed to get necessary 31 votes (30-28), AP

Bills submitted for 2010

Iowa — Senate File 117 Passed by the Senate in 2009, but stalled in the House. A subcommittee is revamping the 3-foot bill to include provisions to protect “vulnerable users” by adding enhanced fines. More at Sioux City Journal.

Maryland — Senate Bill 51 Requires motorists to pass bicycles by “not less than 3 feet;” also makes it illegal to throw an object at a bicyclist. Also, motorists crossing a bike lane to turn must yield the right of way to bicyclists.

Missouri House Bill 1250 requires a driver to pass a bicycle at a distance not less than 3 feet. See other bicycling bills at BikeMoFed.

Ohio (announced Sept. 28, 2009) Senate Bill 174 requires a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle to maintain a safe passing distance between the motor vehicle and bicycle of not less than three feet. It eliminates the current requirement for the operator of an overtaken vehicle, including a bicycle, to give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle at the latter’s audible signal.

South DakotaSenate Bill 70 requires a 3-foot gap when passing a bicycle. Refered to the Senate Transportation Committee on Jan. 20. The South Dakota Bicycle Coalition is bird-dogging this bill.

VirginiaSenate Bill 566 and House Bill 1048 (HB 1048 defeated) requires motorists give bicyclists at least three feet. The bills also outlaw tailgating and create a a new Class 3 misdemeanor of Careless Driving — to counter the difficulty of charging motorists with Reckless Driving when they kill or injure cyclists. More details at Virginia Bicycling Federation and at Richmond Sunlight (SB 566 and HB 1048).

State laws under consideration in 2009

Colorado (passed and signed into law)

Iowa

Louisiana (passed and signed into law)

Maryland (passed and signed into law in 2010)

Rhode Island (amended and enacted in 2010)

Texas (passed, but Gov. Nick Perry vetoed)

Washington (not resolved)

Previously under consideration

Hawaii: SB 2892 — For any motor vehicle passing a bicyclist, a safe distance shall be not less than 3 feet, except that a bicyclist may reasonably leave a bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions. Check status.

New Hampshire: HB 1203 — The distance shall be presumed to be reasonable and prudent if it is at least 3 feet when the vehicle is traveling at 30 miles per hour or less, with one additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour above 30 miles per hour. Check status at Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire or QuickBill search.

New Jersey: The state legislature passed a 3-feet-to-pass bill on June 25; it’s under consideration by the Senate transportation committee.

Ohio: HB 390 — “When the operator of a vehicle or trackless trolley overtakes a bicycle or other slow vehicle, the operator shall pass at a distance of not less than three feet between the vehicle or trackless trolley and the bicycle or other slow vehicle.” Check updates at Ohio House bill status

South Carolina: HB 3006 — “An operator of a motor vehicle shall allow a safe operating distance between the motor vehicle and a bicycle when passing and overtaking a bicyclist.” This bill passed the House and became SB 0354. Check Palmetto Cycling Coalition for updates. (Passed out of Senate committee on April 23, 2008 — The State.)(Signed into law June 10, 2008 – AP)

Vermont: H.578 — “An operator of a motor vehicle that is passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall exercise due care by leaving a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicyclist of not less than three feet while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle.  Additionally, the operator of a vehicle that passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction may not make a right turn at any intersection or into any highway or driveway unless the turn can be made with reasonable safety.” Also S. 275. Check status at Vermont bill tracking.

Washington: HB 2732 — “The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian or bicycle that is on the roadway or on the right-hand shoulder or bicycle lane of the roadway shall pass to the left at a safe distance, of no less than three feet, to clearly avoid coming into contact with the pedetrian or bicyclist….” Check for updates at Washington legislature bill search or Bicycle Alliance of Washington bill watch.

 — This list of 3-foot passing bills considered in state legislatures was compiled in part with information provided by the National Bike Summit published by League of American Bicyclists.

See also “Six states seeking 3-foot clearance for bicycles”)

National Conference of State Legislatures January update.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2013/09/13/20-states-require-motorists-give-3-feet-or-more-when-passing-cyclists/

8 comments

27 pings

  1. MattM

    The Rhode Island bill was withdrawn because it was redundant with legislation that was passed in the 2010 legislative session. Our current law doesn’t define a distance in feet, but rather, requires leaving enough distance that the bicycle user could fall sideways without contacting the vehicle.

    We are now working on a “Due Care/Vulnerable Road User” law in the state legislature for the second year running.

  2. JM

    How about a law to require bicyclists to exercise due care and caution not to mention refrain from impeding traffic? I have been behind cyclists who think they own the road riding down the middle of the lane impeding traffic. And then there are those who like to ride on windy and narrow rural roads where you can’t see them until you are on top of them. Add to this the fact that they are freeloaders of the highway since they don’t pay a penny of road tax. I’m ok with bicycling when it is done safely (i.e. in bike lanes) but they have no business on many roads and streets they ride and I’m sick of hearing about their “right” to use the public highways when they don’t pay a penny to use them and they create unnecessary traffic hazards. Fair is fair and what’s right is right.

    1. Bicycle Bob

      JM just so you know 98% of adult bicyclists are also motorists, so they pay the tax. The bicyclist just wnat thier piece of the transportation pie (currently 2.1%)

  3. Gene Bisbee

    Unless specifically excluded, bicycles are legally defined as vehicles when they’re on the road. Bike riders have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. When they run stop signs or red lights, they run the risk of getting a ticket, the same as a motorist. What’s not fair about that?

    And bicyclists do pay their fair share to use the roads. Taxes charged at the pump contribute only a small portion of the cost of building and maintaining local roads. Even if bicyclists never owned cars, they would still pay their fair share for roads when they pay sales, income and/or property taxes. Anyway, consider the wear and tear on roads caused by bicycles compared to cars and trucks. Looks like bicyclists are subsidizing cars.

    1. Bicycle Bob

      Gene you are correct

  4. Patricia Kovacs

    Dear Gene,
    Could you update this post for Ohio? We have a new bill in the Ohio House for the 3′ law: HB 145.
    http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_HB_145
    It also includes a malfunctioning signal change for signals which fail to detect bicycles.
    The previous bill was SB 174 in 2009, as you stated in your information for Ohio.
    Also, our motor vehicle driving manual includes the recommendation to provide 3′, even though the law just says “safe distance”.
    http://publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/hsy7607.pdf
    Page 67.

    Also, have you heard of any state or city that required a cyclist to provide 3′ when passing a motor vehicle?
    Thanks, Tricia

  5. Gene Bisbee

    Thanks for the new info, and good luck with getting that passed in the Ohio legislature and signed by the governor. By the way, I’ve never heard of a law requiring a cyclist give 3 feet when passing a motor vehicle

  6. Chuck Smith

    The 3 foot passing requirement is still in our House Bill 145, currently before the Ohio House after passing the House Transportation Committee.

    Please correct your entry under “Other 2014 action”

    In Ohio, the sponsor of House Bill 145 withdrew the 3-foot passing bill in 2014 after opposing testimony at a hearing. (INCORRECT)

    Thanks,

    Chuck Smith
    Chair, Ohio Bicycle Federation

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