A bicycle safety policy that has gained significant interest and activity in state legislatures is 3-feet or safe passing laws. These laws seek to ensure that, when passing bicycles, motor vehicles allow adequate space to avoid sideswiping bicyclists or causing them to overcorrect to avoid a vehicle. Skeptics doubt such laws can be enforced and whether 3 feet allows sufficient space for bicyclists. In addition, many bicyclists feel that laws dictating they must ride to the far right of a lane are of more concern because they often encourage too-close passing and leave bicyclists vulnerable to being “doored” by a parked car or to encountering roadside debris. Advocates state that these passing laws at least create a legal framework to protect bicyclists who are hit or buzzed from behind, create a less arbitrary standard and raise awareness of the importance of safe passing.
In 1973, Wisconsin became the first state to enact such a law; several more states have since enacted such measures. As of June 2014, 25 states—Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin—and the District of Columbia have enacted 3-feet passing laws. Pennsylvania has a 4-feet passing law. In 19 other states there are general laws that provide that motorists must pass at a “safe distance.” These laws typically state that vehicles must pass bicyclists at a safe distance and speed, but usually are not more specific.
Map of States with Statutes Regarding Motorists Passing Bicyclists
State Statutes Regarding Motorists Passing Bicyclists
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