Bicyclists in Ohio and Virginia are working to enact bills that would require motor vehicles to give bicyclists 3 feet of clearance when passing.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books with the 3-foot or more requirement. California became the 22nd to enact the law last year; it goes into effect on Sept. 16, 2014.
The Ohio bill — House Bill 145 — was introduced last year by state Rep. Mike Henne (R-Vandalia). It has co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
The law would also enable bicyclists (as well as other vehicles) to lawfully proceed through intersections where they could not trigger a red traffic signal to change.
The Virginia bill — Senate Bill 97 — was introduced for the current session by Rep. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania). It’s scheduled for a Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday.
The Ohio bill
The Ohio Bicycle Federation has been urging members to talk to their local representatives, especially those on the Transportation committees, to gain support for the bill.
The bill amends current traffic law by requiring:
“When a motor vehicle or trackless trolley overtakes and passes a bicycle, the safe passing distance to the left shall be not less than three feet.”
The bill also addresses the problem that occurs for bicyclists at so many traffic signals that operate on a trigger device in the road. Sometimes, they do not detect bicyclists. The bill reads (with proposed updates underlined):
(A) The driver of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley who approaches an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals shall do all of the following, if the signal facing the driver either exhibits no colored lights or colored lighted arrows or, exhibits a combination of such lights or arrows that fails to clearly indicate the assignment of right-of-way, or the signals are otherwise malfunctioning, including the failure of a vehicle detector to detect the vehicle: ….
(3) Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.”
This section applies to all vehicles; bicycles are included because they’re considered vehicles.
An earlier attempt to enact a 3-foot passing law for Ohio failed. At least one Ohio city, Cincinnati, already has a 3-foot passing law on the books as a local ordinance.
The Virginia Bicycling Federation has made several attempts to win passage of a 3-foot passing bill in the past.
SB 97 would increase from 2 to 3 feet the minimum clearance between a passing vehicle and a bicycle. Here’s the section in the bill:
“Any driver of any vehicle overtaking a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a reasonable speed at least
two feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle and shall not again proceed to the right side of the highway until safely clear of such overtaken bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle,moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle.”
The Virginia Bicycling Federation says at least 11 cyclists have been struck by passing motorists in recent years.
“This bill would help educate motor vehicle drivers to pass the drivers of any non-motorized vehicle (including a bicycle) with a wider margin of error, and thereby reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries to these legal and legitimate road users.
“In addition, this bill could improve justice for all lawful and prudent drivers of non-motorized vehicles (including bicycles) who are injured by negligent following motorists. Finally, this bill would make it illegal to harass or endanger the driver of any legal vehicle by “buzzing” them.”
The 21 states with 3-foot laws are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania has a 4-foot passing law.
Read more about the issue at “22 states require motorists give bicyclists 3 feet or more when passing cyclists.”