West Virginia has become the 22nd state to require motorists give bicyclists 3 feet of space or more when passing, as the bicycling safety measure continues to gain approval in legislatures across the US.
The law passed in West Virginia during the 2014 legislative session and was signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on March 21. It went into effect on June 3.
Another long-sought and hard-fought quest for a 3-foot passing law was achieved in Virginia after the state legislature in March approved Senate Bill 97, which increased the minimum safe distance for passing a bicyclist to 3 feet. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill and it goes into effect on July 1.
Meanwhile, California’s 3-foot passing law will go into effect on Sept. 16 this year. Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed the bill into law on Sept. 23, 2013 after the state legislature passed the third version earlier in the year.
The bill didn’t fare well in Ohio, however, after Ohio Rep. Michael Henne said he would withdraw his 3-foot passing bill because testimony against it.
Twenty-two states with a safe-passing law currently on the books are:
Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania has a 4-foot passing law. The District of Columbia also has a 3-foot passing law.
Virginia will be No. 23 and California will be No. 24.
The West Virginia law was sponsored by Delegate Danny Wells, a Democrat from Kanwaha. He says he’s an avid cyclist, but doesn’t often feel safe riding on roads. He told the Charleston Gazette:
“The cars practically ignore you and they come way too close to you when they pass you.”
The law also enables cyclists to avoid the debris-filled roadsides or the “door zones” of lines of parked cars.
The League of American Bicyclists currently ranks West Virginia as 44th on its list of bike-friendly states. A safe pass/vulnerable road user law is one of the Top 10 Signs of Success for bikeable states, according to the Gazette.