3 states consider bicycle bills requiring 3-foot passing; Nebraska considers ‘changing lanes’

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State legislatures in IndianaWyoming and South Dakota are considering bills this year that would require that motorists give bicyclists a 3-foot gap when passing.

(March 19, 2015 — Other states considering passing laws — Alabama (SB 4 — 5 foot passing law passed Senate, goes to House; Massachusetts Bill H.3073 names bicyclists as vulnerable users and requires motorists slow down to 30 mph when passing and give the bicyclist three feet of space. In transportation committee.)

Meanwhile, legislation in Nebraska would change its 3-foot passing law, replacing it with a rule that motorists would be required to change lanes to pass bicyclists. And Florida is seeking to further define its 3-foot law.

Bicycle passing laws in US

Bicycle passing laws in US

Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia require a 3-foot gap when passing (actually, Pennsylvania requires a 4-foot gap). Three-foot laws went into effect last year in Virginia, West Virginia and California.

The 3-foot passing laws are designed to raise awareness among motorists that bicyclists share the road with them and need sufficient space. The 3 feet gives bicyclists some room to maneuver around debris they may encounter in the road.


The Wyoming bill — House Bill 85 — was filed by Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, after five bicyclists were killed on Wyoming roads in 2014. Check the bill’s status here.

Oddly, the bill doesn’t set penalties for violations. Stubson is quoted in the Casper Star-Tribune: “I think it is something to say and have known to motor vehicle operators what their obligation is.”

Wyoming Pathways, a Jackson-based nonprofit that supports efforts to make bicycling, walking and skiing safer, is expected to ask that the legislature study a vulnerable user law that would carry enhanced penalties when bicyclists, pedestrians or horse riders are killed or injured by motorists.


Three bills introduced in the Indiana state legislature would require motorists give bicyclists 3 feet of space.

The legislature — House Bill 1233 and Senate Bills 36 and 250 — would make violations a Class C infraction, which carries a fine of up to $500.

Currently, the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette have 3-foot passing ordinances.

California Bicycle Coalition poster

California Bicycle Coalition poster

A 3-foot Senate bill failed last year. The Lafayette Journal and Courier reports that the multiple bills might give the 3-foot law a better chance of passage. The three bills are largely the same, except HB 1233 and SB 250 require the motorist to wait to return to the lane until it’s safely clear of the bicycle.

The bills must be passed before the session ends April 29.

Next door in Ohio, a 3-foot bill died after it stalled in a Senate Transportation Committee as the session ended last year.

South Dakota

The 3-foot measure in the South Dakota legislature — HB 1030 — would require motorists give bicyclists 3 feet of space when passing.

It also imposes a requirement that bicyclists signal their intention to turn eight left or right at least 100 feet before turning. (An intermittent hand signal is OK if the cyclist needs both hands on the handlebar.)

Further, a bicyclist cannot pass a motor vehicle on the right if the driver signals a right turn.

You can follow the bill’s progress here.


One of the early supporters of a 3-foot passing law, Nebraska’s state legislature is now considering a bill that would replace the 3-foot rule. The bill — LB-39, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Rick Kowolski —  would require motorists to changes lanes to pass bicycles on 4-lane roads, and cross the center line to pass bicycles on two-lane roads. (Follow the status of LB-39 here).

Supporters said it would be easier to understand and enforce than the current 3-foot

The bill also would repeal an old law that requires bicyclists to use a bike path if it’s adjacent to the road.

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.

At least one state, Washington, requires that motorcycles give bicycles a 3-foot gap when passing, but doesn’t mention other motor vehicles.

More at: 24 state require motorists give 3 feet or more when passing bicyclists

Also, see the National Conference on State Legislatures — Safely Passing Bicyclists.


The state that annually ranks at or near the top in bicyclist fatalities has had a 3-foot rule for several years. Apparently there has been some quibbling regarding what constitutes 3 feet, according to the New-Press.

The state legislature is currently considering a law — House Bill 231 — that defines the 3-foot clearance as the space “between any part of or attachment to the motor vehicle, any thing extending from the motor vehicle, and any trailer or other thing being towed by the motor vehicle and the bicycle, the person operating the bicycle, or other vulnerable user.”

The bill also makes it illegal to harass, taunt, or throw an object at a bicyclist. It also has a “vulnerable user” clause that increases penalties and requires court appearances for careless driving, right-turn violations, or 3-foot violations that result in the death or injury of a vulnerable user.

Follow the Florida bill here.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2015/01/22/2-states-consider-bicycle-bills-requiring-3-foot-passing/

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