Safely Passing Bicyclists Chart

7/27/2018

bicycle being passed by carA 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 July 2018, 32 states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Utah, West Virginia,  Wisconsin and Wyoming—and the District of Columbia have enacted passing laws that require the motorist to leave at least 3-feet or more when passing a bicyclist . North Carolina has a 2 feet passing requirement for motorists, and also allows passing in a no-pass zone if a motorist leaves 4 feet clearance.

Two states have laws that go beyond a 3-feet passing law. Pennsylvania has a 4-feet passing law. South Dakota enacted a two-tiered passing law in 2015; with a three-foot passing requirement on roads with posted speeds of thirty-five miles per hour or less and a minimum of six feet separation for roads with speed limits greater than thirty-five miles per hour. 

Additionally, three states, Delaware, Kentucky and Nevada, require a motorist to completely change lanes when passing a bicyclist if there is more than one lane proceeding in the same direction.  

In 9 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; Montana's law, for example, requires a motorist to "overtake and pass a person riding a bicycle only when the operator of the motor vehicle can do so safely without endangering the person riding the bicycle. 

US map show bike passing statutes.

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State Statutes Regarding Motorists Passing Bicyclists
States Statute Summary of Laws
Alabama

Ala. Code § 32-5A-82

This law defines, for purposes of a vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle, a safe distance to mean not less than three feet on a roadway that has a marked bicycle lane or a roadway without a marked bicycle lane if the roadway has a marked speed limit of 45 miles per hour or less and the roadway does not have a double yellow line separating cars from oncoming traffic indicating a no passing zone. This shall only apply when a cyclist is riding within two feet of the right shoulder of the roadway.

Alaska

None

 

Arizona

A.R.S. § 28-735

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.

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 27-51-311

Exercise due care and pass to the left at a safe distance of not less than three (3) feet and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle.

California

Cal Veh. Code § 21760

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. The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.

Colorado

C.R.S. 42-4-1002

Allow the bicyclist at least a three (3) foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-232

A "safe distance" means not less than three (3) feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a person riding a bicycle.

Delaware

21 Del. C. § 4116

On any roadway where the travel lane is too narrow for an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane with the overtaken bicycle, the driver of the overtaking vehicle shall, yielding the right-of-way and proceeding with caution, move completely into the lane to the left before passing. On any roadway where the travel lane is wide enough for an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane with the bicycle, the driver of the overtaking vehicle shall reduce the speed of the vehicle and leave a reasonable and prudent distance by providing a minimum of three feet of clearance while passing such bicyclist. 

District of Columbia

Rule 18-2202.10

Exercise due care by leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than three (3) feet, when overtaking and passing a bicycle.

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 316.083

Must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than three (3) feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-56

Leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. The term "safe distance" means not less than three (3) feet.

Guam

None

 

Hawaii

Hawaii Rev. Stat §291C-43 

The driver of a vehicle passing or overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow at least three feet of separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other protuberances, and the left side of the bicyclist, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle.

Idaho

None

 

Illinois

625 ILCS 5/11-703

Leave a safe distance, but not less than three (3) feet, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual. A driver may pass a bicyclist in a no-passing zone, provided: the bicyclist is traveling at less than half the posted speed; the driver is able to pass without exceeding the speed limit and there is sufficient distance to the left of the centerline for the motor vehicle to overtake and pass the bicyclist. 

Indiana

None

 

Iowa

None

 

Kansas

K.S.A. § 8-1516

Pass to the left at a distance of not less than three (3) feet and do not drive to the right side of the roadway until the vehicle is safely clear of the overtaken bicycle.

Kentucky

K.R.S. 189.340

Vehicles overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall: 1. If there is more than one lane for traffic proceeding in the same direction, move the vehicle to the immediate left, if the lane is available and moving in the lane is reasonably safe; or 2. If there is only one lane for traffic proceeding in the same direction, pass to the left of the bicycle at a distance of not less than three feet between any portion of the vehicle and the bicycle and maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. If space on the roadway is not available to have a minimum distance of three feet between the vehicle and the bicycle, then the driver of the passing vehicle shall use reasonable caution in passing the bicyclist. The driver of a motor vehicle may drive to the left of the center of a roadway, including when a no-passing zone is marked, to pass a person operating a bicycle only if the roadway to the left of the center is unobstructed for a sufficient distance to permit the driver to pass the person operating the bicycle safely and avoid interference with oncoming traffic. 

Louisiana

La. R.S. 32:76.1

Pass with not less than three (3) feet and maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Maine

29-A M.R.S. § 2070

Pass with a distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three (3) feet.

Maryland

Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 21-1209

Must pass safely at a distance of not less than three (3) feet.

Massachusetts

ALM GL ch. 89, § 2

If it is not possible to overtake a bicycle or other vehicle at a safe distance in the same lane, the overtaking vehicle shall use all or part of an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so or wait for a safe opportunity to overtake.

Michigan

Mich. Stat. Ann §257.636 

The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance of at least 3 feet to the left of that bicycle or, if it is impracticable to pass the bicycle at a distance of 3 feet to the left, at a safe distance to the left of that bicycle at a safe speed, and when safely clear of the overtaken bicycle shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.

Notwithstanding section 640, if it is safe to do so, the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may overtake and pass the bicycle in a no-passing zone. 

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 169.18

Leave a safe distance but in no case less than three (3) feet clearance, when passing a bicycle or individual and maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 63-3-1309

Leave a safe distance of not less than three (3) feet between the vehicle and the bicyclist and maintain such clearance until safely past the bicycle.

Missouri

§ 300.411 R.S.Mo

Leave a safe distance when passing the bicycle, and maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Montana

Mont. Code Anno., § 61-8-320

Overtake and pass a person riding a bicycle only when the operator of the motor vehicle can do so safely without endangering the person riding the bicycle.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6, 133

The driver of a vehicle 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

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 484B.270

If there is more than one lane for traffic proceeding in the same direction, the motorist must move the vehicle to the lane to the immediate left, if the lane is available and moving into the lane is reasonably safe. Otherwise, a motorist must pass to the left with no less than three (3) feet between any portion of the vehicle and the bicycle. 

New Hampshire

RSA 265:143-a

Leave a reasonable and prudent distance between the vehicle and the bicycle. The distance shall be presumed to be reasonable and prudent if it is at least three (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.

New Jersey

None

 

New Mexico

None

 

New York

NY CLS Veh. & Tr. § 1122-a

The operator of a vehicle overtaking, from behind, a bicycle proceeding on the same side of a roadway shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen Stat. § 20-149 and 20-150 

The driver of any such vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at least two feet to the left thereof, and shall not again drive to the right side of the highway until safely clear of such overtaken vehicle. In a no-pass zone, a motorist may pass a bicyclist if (1) The slower moving vehicle to be passed is a bicycle or a moped. (2) The slower moving vehicle is proceeding in the same direction as the faster moving vehicle. (3) The driver of the faster moving vehicle either (i) provides a minimum of four feet between the faster moving vehicle and the slower moving vehicle or (ii) completely enters the left lane of the highway. (4) The operator of the slower moving vehicle is not (i) making a left turn or (ii) signaling to communicate a left turn. (5) The driver of the faster moving vehicle complies with all other applicable requirements. 

North Dakota

None

 

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4511.27

The operator of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle shall pass to the left at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.  When a motor vehicle overtakes and passes a bicycle, three feet or greater is considered a safe passing distance.

Oklahoma

47 Okl. St. §11-1208

Pass with 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.

Oregon

ORS § 811.065

A speed less than 35 mph and a "safe distance" means a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver's lane of traffic.

Pennsylvania

75 Pa.C.S. § 3303

Pass to the left of the pedalcycle within not less than four (4) feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed.

Puerto Rico

None

 

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-15-18

A speed less than 15 mph and a "safe distance" means a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver's lane of traffic.

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-3435

A driver of a motor vehicle must at all times maintain a safe operating distance between the motor vehicle and a bicycle.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 32-26-26.1.

A motorist overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction must allow a minimum of a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including any mirror or other projection, and the left side of the bicycle if the posted limit is thirty-five miles per hour or less and a minimum of six feet separation if the posted limit is greater than thirty-five miles per hour.  A motorist overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may partially cross the highway centerline between two lanes of travel in the same direction if it can be performed safely. The driver of the motor vehicle shall maintain that separation until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-175

Leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3') and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Texas

None

 

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 41-6a-706.5

A motor vehicle may not knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly operate a motor vehicle within three (3) 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.

Vermont

23 V.S.A. § 1033

Exercise due care, which includes increasing clearance, to pass the vulnerable user safely.

Virginia

Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-839

A reasonable speed at least three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle.

Washington

Wash Rev. Code § 46.61.110

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 to clearly avoid coming into contact with the pedestrian or bicyclist, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken pedestrian or bicyclist.

West Virginia

W Va. Code § 17C-7-3

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.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 346.075

Exercise due care, leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than three (3) feet clearance when passing the bicycle and maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 31-5-203

A motorist overtaking and passing a bicycle that is operating lawfully and proceeding in the same direction, must, when space allows, maintain at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver's motor vehicle, including all mirrors and other projections from the motor vehicle, and the bicycle.