Arizona's Three-Foot Passing Law

and other state's "safe passing" laws

return to azbikelaw.org
Full list of states, with some sort of special passing law.

[jump down to full text of law] This page is a collection of news items which pretty well document the Arizona "three-foot" law which was passed in 2000 (HB2625 select the 44th legislature 2nd regular session). This law is sometimes referred to as "Brad Gorman's Law", named after a Tucson cyclist run down from behind, and was brought through the legislative process by Representative Debora Norris. The introduced bill included more clearance for roadways with posted speed limits of 40 mph and above -- but that didn't survive committee. The minutes of the committee (it is the Veterans and Military Affairs committee, which is kind of strange) are pretty interesting (scan down for HB2625).

There were efforts to modify it in 2003 ( HB2503 from the 46th legislature, 1st Regular Session) which did not go anywhere, and included some atrocious additional provisions. Again, there was some hope of reforming 28-735 in 2006 by Rep. Quelland but instead introduced a related bill that didn't go anywhere, thankfully.

The main provisions which passed into law in 2000 are (for the full text, jump here):

ARS 28-735. Overtaking bicycles; civil penalties

A. When overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, a person driving a motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.

B. If a person violates this section and the violation results in a collision causing:

1. Serious physical injury as defined in section 13-105 to another person, the violater is subject to a civil penalty of up to five hundred dollars.
2. Death to another person, the violater is subject to a civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars.

C. Subsection B of this section does not apply to a bicyclist who is injured in a vehicular traffic lane when a designated bicycle lane or path is present and passable
 

UPDATES 2006 -- in addition to Arizona, I have hunted down the following other states with three-foot laws for comparison purposes; Florida, Utah, Minnesota, Okalahoma, Wisconsin (it all started here in 1973!?). Also Missouri had some intersting passing law changes, but without the 3-feet, so I included that as well. Go here for post-2006 updates.

Citations under 28-735 are rare. According to newspaper reports, John Leasure Jr. was cited by Pima County Sheriff's Office in relation to a fatality in Tucson in early 2001. Whether or not these citations are actually issued is another matter -- apparently in fatalities the police forget to issue the traffic citations, as happened in the Anselmo case, "[no citations have] happened time and time again" (No Penalty for fatal crash on Pecos Road, Ahwatukee Foothills News, Aug 9, 2006).

A second case -- (mid-Oct 2005) according to Coalition website:"The driver that killed cyclist Jack Carney in Scottsdale, AZ plead responsible for A.R.S.28-735 [3 foot law] and A.R.S.28-701 [failure to control vehicle]. Driver was fined the maxium on both civil citations $1,832.00. Received six [ 6 ] points on drivers license."

Though, digging around a bit further, in the minutes of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee (TPCBAC), it sounds like the Pima County Sheriff's office is giving out this citation freely -- twice in January 2006 alone, from the description of the crashes it sounds like they were pure 28-735(A) citations (no death or serious injury). The crashes were described as a sideswipe and a right hook.


[Note: This did not pass into law...which is fortunate because some enemies(?) put in horrible, horrible provisions. In particular, some rascally senator inserted "or bicycle" into 28-704A -- which would in effect remove a cyclist's right to the road. This was my defining moment of clarity regarding tinkering with the law...BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN]

Drivers who go too close to bikers could face fines

IRENE HSIAO Tucson Citizen April 2, 2003

A bill set to go before the state Senate aims to amend four parts of Arizona's bicycle law, adding a fine for drivers who pass bicyclists too closely, even if no serious injury results.
Under the measure, a driver could be fined up to $250 for not staying at least three feet from the bicyclist.
House Bill 2503 cleared the state House on March 18 on a 40-20 vote.
It is under review in a Senate committee, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Thompson, R-Tempe.
Adding fines for passing a cyclist too closely, even when there is no serious injury to the bike rider, is important, said Richard E. Corbett, regional bicycling coordinator for the Pima Association of Governments.
When a cyclist is riding at 15 mph and a car passes at 45 mph, "you feel assaulted, you really do, believe me," he said.
Under the proposed changes, drivers could be fined up to $500 for seriously injuring a bicyclist or up to $1,000 if the bicyclist dies.
The bill would add bicyclists to the part of the motor vehicle law that addresses minimum speeds.
Under the bill, a bicyclist - just like a vehicle driver - would have to pull off a two-lane road at the nearest signed turnout if he is going slower than the normal flow of traffic and when five or more vehicles are lined up behind the cyclist.
"The intent is for bicyclists to be reasonable, as well as the drivers," said Matt Zoll, Pima County's bicycle and pedestrian program manager.
The bill also would require drivers who are passing to the right of another vehicle to make sure there are no bicyclists on that portion of the road.
Previously, the law mentioned only parked vehicles.
A part of the proposed measure, called the "Brad Gorman" law, would allow a driver to enter a two-way left-turn lane only if no traffic is present, to provide the minimum three feet of passing distance to a bicyclist.
Gorman, 41, was riding a bicycle when he was killed in 1999 in a collision with a pickup truck on Catalina Highway. The real estate agent was training for his eighth El Tour de Tucson bicycle race.
The truck's 17-year-old driver was cited and fined $66 for failing to control the speed of his vehicle to avoid a collision, Pima County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Karl Woolridge said.
 Link to article


[This is the one, and only that I know of, driver charged under 28-735.  I can find no further information as of November 2003, maybe charges were dropped(?)...]

Driver cited in Jan. 1 cyclist fatality
Arizona Daily Star; Tucson, Ariz.; Jan 13, 2001; Joseph Barrios;
Copyright The Arizona Daily Star Jan 13, 2001

A driver who fatally struck a bicyclist Jan. 1 now faces a fine of up to $1,000.

Pima County Sheriff's Department detectives cited John Leasure Jr., 55, Thursday for violation of the new "overtaking bicycles law."

Leasure struck bicyclist Dr. Bruce Hedges, a local psychiatrist, about 2:45 p.m. New Year's Day.

Leasure was headed north in a three-quarter-ton Chevrolet pickup on North First Avenue about a half-mile north of East Orange Grove Road when he came up behind Hedges, 40, who was riding his bike. While trying to pass Hedges, Leasure struck the bicyclist, who was wearing a helmet, deputies said. Hedges died at Tucson Medical Center.

Investigators have determined that alcohol or drugs were not factors in the collision, said Deputy Deanna Coultas, spokeswoman for the sheriff's department.

Arizona law changed last year, requiring motor vehicle drivers to give a 3-foot berth when passing cyclists and raising the fines for drivers who strike cyclists.

The decision to cite Leasure was made in conjunction with the County Attorney's Office, Coultas said.

Hedges' death was the second serious Tucson-area crash involving a bicyclist within a week.

Ross Yokoyama, 38, remained in serious condition yesterday at Tucson Medical Center after being struck Dec. 26 by a hit-and-run driver at East Speedway and North Wentworth Road. Tracey L. Noonan, 21, was arrested two days later and charged with leaving the scene.


Psychiatrist on bicycle is hit by truck, dies
Arizona Daily Star; Tucson, Ariz.; Jan 3, 2001; Tim Steller;
Copyright The Arizona Daily Star Jan 3, 2001

Hundreds of Tucson patients lost their psychiatrist Monday when Dr. Bruce Hedges was struck by a pickup truck while bicycling up North First Avenue.

Pima County sheriff's deputies initially thought the 2:45 p.m. crash had not caused life-threatening injuries, said department spokeswoman Deanna Coultas. But Hedges, 40, died eight hours later at University Medical Center.

His death marked the second serious Tucson-area crash involving a bicyclist in less than a week.

Ross Yokoyama, 38, remained in critical condition at Tucson Medical Center yesterday, six days after he was struck by a hit-and- run driver on the far East Side, at East Speedway and North Wentworth Road. Tracey L. Noonan, 21, was arrested two days later and charged with leaving the scene of that accident.

The driver in Monday's collision, John Leasure Jr., has not been cited, but the case remains under investigation, Coultas said.

Leasure, 55, was driving a three-quarter-ton Chevrolet pickup when he came upon the bicyclist about a half-mile north of East Orange Grove Road, Coultas said. While trying to pass Hedges, Leasure struck the bicyclist, who was wearing a helmet.

That stretch of North First Avenue has two paved lanes, a center turning lane and wide dirt shoulders. It goes uphill to the north, the way Hedges was riding.

Leasure's attorney, Natman Schaye, said Hedges was riding on the right side of the paved northbound lane.

"It was a tragic accident, but that's what it was - an accident," Schaye said.

Arizona law changed last year, requiring motor vehicle drivers to give a 3-foot berth when passing cyclists and raising the fines for drivers who strike cyclists. The fine, which had been $66, went up to $1,000 in cases in which the cyclist dies and $500 when the cyclist is seriously injured.

Matthew Zoll, chairman of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee, pointed out that Monday's crash occurred on a stretch of road where the county declined to add a bicycle lane last year.

In a project that ended last month, the county widened North First Avenue to four lanes south of Orange Grove, adding paved shoulders. But north of Orange Grove, the road dwindles to two lanes.

Hedges had a psychiatric practice at Palo Verde Behavioral Health's office at 6600 N. Oracle Road, said Dr. Larry Cronin, vice president of the group.

Cronin said Hedges had a booming practice, which was one of the reasons Palo Verde is moving to an expanded office on Ina Road this month. Now other practitioners will have to take over his patients' cases, which numbered several hundred, Cronin said.

Hedges also specialized in medical ethics and had served on Tucson Medical Center's ethics board, Cronin said.

Hedges was born in Ohio and went to medical school at Cornell University. He came to Tucson in the early 1990s.

He coached his daughter Christina's soccer team and bicycled frequently.

"I know he was a pretty avid cyclist for a lot of years," said Cindy Ridings, a friend of Hedges and his widow, Sidney. "I think he took some time off, and then he had recently started up again."

Ridings called Hedges a very devoted father and enthusiastic individual.

"It's going to be a big loss," she said.

* Contact Tim Steller at 434-4086 or at steller at azstarnet period com.


Fines rising for drivers who hit cyclists
Arizona Daily Star; Tucson, Ariz; May 17, 2000; Anita McDivitt;
Copyright The Arizona Daily Star May 17, 2000

CORRECTION  MAY 19, 2000 2A
A story Wednesday on Page A1 gave incorrect information on the penalty incurred in the 1999 death of Leeanne Stanton. The driver who struck and killed her was not cited or fined.

The driver who struck and killed bicyclist and real estate agent Brad Gorman on Catalina Highway last year received a $66 ticket.

So did the motorist who struck and killed 16-year-old Leeanne Stanton as she rode her bike Aug. 9 in a crosswalk on Speedway.

Those fines angered victims' families and spurred the cycling community in Tucson to lobby the Legislature to change the law.

Motorists who kill bicyclists while passing them on Arizona's roadways after July18 will face up to a $1,000 fine if found at fault. Drivers who cause "serious physical injury" will face a fine up to $500.

"A $66 ticket for my son's death is obnoxious," said Jean Gorman, the mother of Brad Gorman, who was killed Sept. 30. "There's a $250 fine for littering. What's a person worth?"

Under current state law, motorists must give cyclists an undefined "safe distance" when passing. The law was so vague that it was rarely enforced, said state Rep. Debora Norris, D-Tucson. Instead, drivers were usually issued a regular traffic ticket much to the surprise and outrage of the victims' families.

The new law specifies a passing distance of at least three feet. But it also exempts motorists from the penalty if a bicyclist is using a traffic lane when a designated bicycle lane is present and passable.

"Some motorists could argue this just gives cyclists more incentive to pull out in front of the roadway," said Tom Fisher of the city transportation department. "But that's not true. They still have to use common sense."

State law considers bicycles vehicles, and cyclists are subject to traffic laws. The problem arises when bicyclists or motorists are not familiar with those laws.

"The actual number of accidents which occur to bicyclists from motorists passing from behind are not very high 4 to 8 percent," said Matthew Zoll, chair of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee. "It is a valid fear, but it is not the most common accident."

Arizona is the second-worst state in the nation for bicycle fatalities, averaging 26 deaths yearly from 1986 to 1995.

There were 23 bicycle accident deaths in Arizona last year. Only Florida is worse, averaging 114 bicycle-related fatalities annually, Zoll said.

He cautioned that many accidents occur when bicyclists ride in the opposite direction of traffic or when they ride at night without lights.

"You have a 300 percent higher chance of being in an accident if you're a bicyclist going the wrong way," Zoll said. By the same token, many drivers do not know what to do when they encounter cyclists when making right-hand turns across bike lanes, for example, or on roads with no bike lanes.

"There's a lot of educating that has to be done on both sides of the issue," said Motor Vehicle Division spokeswoman Cydney DeModica. "I know the cyclists are a very enthusiastic group of people who feel very passionate about their issues. But hopefully this will educate them that they can't obey all the traffic laws until it's convenient for them to weave in and out of traffic."

The DMV will be required to test applicants for driver's licenses on the new law, and DeModica said the test and driver license manual will be updated when they reprint in the fall.

Information on the Arizona Department of Transportation's Web site, www.dot.state.az.us, will be updated in July. Currently, the manual does address bicycle laws on Page 40 under the heading "Sharing the Road With a Bike," and lists one review test question, "What are the rights of a person riding a bicycle in the street?"

But the changes to the test and manual will not help to educate established drivers, who already have their licenses and many of whom are not scheduled to renew those licenses for 20 to 30 years.


RIDING IN A DANGER ZONE 2 Tucson bicyclists were hurt in 2 collisions with a man who blames bad luck and 'rude, crude' people on bikes
Arizona Daily Star; Tucson, Ariz.; Nov 18, 2000; Stephanie Innes and Bryn Bailer;
Copyright The Arizona Daily Star Nov 18, 2000

The driver of a truck that collided last week with a bicyclist training for El Tour de Tucson is the same driver involved in a crash with another cyclist on the same road last year.

The driver, Patrick P. Argenziano, 51, says he feels cursed by bad luck, and that the crashes on South Mission Road were not his fault.

Authorities cited Argenziano for unsafe passing in both crashes, and the most recent accident remains under investigation by the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Argenziano said he plans to contest both tickets.

A 23-year resident of Sahuarita who uses South Mission Road nearly daily, Argenziano says he too often sees cyclists dominating a roadway with no paved shoulder that is notorious for deceptive curves and stretches where no passing is allowed.

Both of the crashes occurred in clear weather conditions during daylight and on flat surfaces. No skid marks were reported.

The two cyclists injured in the collisions said that Argenziano shouted profanities at them after they crashed - accusations he denies.

"I didn't hit anybody. . . . These guys ride along these roads, they give you the finger, they don't want to move over, what are we supposed to do?" Argenziano said. "They are rude, crude people. Not every one of them, but some of them are. We try to get around them and all's we get is abuse.

"This road is dangerous and it's a bad road to cycle on."

The most recent accident occurred about midday Nov. 8, a Wednesday. Ken Cantor, a 52-year-old retired federal worker, was finishing up a 60-mile El Tour training ride with 57-year-old Bill Thurman, a retired teacher who is visiting from Escondido, Calif., to compete in today's Touchstone Energy El Tour de Tucson race.

They were riding two abreast, which is legal in Arizona, and cycling northbound on South Mission Road just north of Helmet Peak Road. Two cars were following behind them. A double yellow line indicated a no-passing zone for cars.

The first car in the line was driven by 26-year-old Chris W. Gallardo, who was returning to Tucson with his wife, Rebecca, 27, after eating breakfast in Green Valley.

Behind the Gallardos was Argenziano, driving a 1987 white Ford truck. Argenziano's 14-year-old son was in the truck with him.

According to the Gallardos, who had no previous acquaintance with either Argenziano or Cantor, Argenziano pulled ahead of them.

"The next thing I knew the truck came to pass us and swerved in front. It almost looked like he would hit us," Rebecca Gallardo said. "He was yelling profanities out the window and he bumped the guy on the bike."

Cantor, who was riding closest to traffic, said he was in the midst of pulling ahead of Thurman to allow the cars to pass when he heard a man cursing. He reported seeing the front right wheel of Argenziano's truck coming toward him.

"He cut in really close," said Thurman, who has been a serious cyclist for six years.

"There was no escaping it, I was about to get hit," said Cantor, who hit the ground under a sign urging cyclists and motorists to "Share the Road."

"The next thing I knew Bill and I were both on the ground looking up at the sky. I took the brunt of it."

Cantor's helmet broke, he sustained multiple scrapes and is still complaining of lower back pain. He was treated and released from University Medical Center the day of the crash.

Argenziano said he should not have passed the Gallardos' car since he was in a no-passing zone. But he said he did not realize that he'd collided with Cantor until the Gallardos motioned for him to stop several miles down the road.

"(Cantor) must have lost control. He was in the middle of the road and he didn't move for me. It's as simple as that," Argenziano said. "These are the only two incidents I've had. They were both within the year, but I still can't believe that this second one happened."

The Sheriff's Department this week issued Argenziano a $73 ticket for unsafe passing, but the incident remains under investigation, Deputy Roger Robinson said.

Robinson said he didn't charge Argenziano with leaving the scene of an accident because there was evidence that Argenziano didn't know he'd collided with a cyclist. Once the Gallardos caught up with Argenziano, he returned to the site.

Robinson found fibers from Cantor's clothing in Argenziano's camper shell.

Argenziano later told authorities that Cantor assaulted him when he returned to the site. Cantor said he grabbed the door of Argenziano's truck to prevent him from leaving before the Sheriff's Department arrived.

The earlier collision involving Argenziano occurred nearly a year ago, at 8:54 a.m. Dec. 11. Argenziano was driving a blue vehicle that according to witnesses sideswiped cyclist and triathlete Ralph Phillips, who broke a wrist, collarbone and four ribs in the crash. His broken ribs punctured a lung.

Phillips, 50, has owned Fair Wheel Bikes in the University of Arizona area for 26 years. Since the crash, he has been unable to compete in triathlons. He will not be riding in today's El Tour.

Phillips' accident occurred on South Mission Road, in an area under the jurisdiction of the Tohono O'odham Police Department, about 6 1/2 miles north of the site where Cantor crashed last week. Phillips was riding two abreast with Vern Roberts, a 46-year-old Tucsonan. Another friend was riding behind them.

"(Argenziano) beeped his horn at us maybe 150 yards back, and Ralph was maybe 6 inches away from me," said Roberts, who was riding on the far right-hand side of the road, next to the white line. Phillips was riding closest to traffic.

"The next thing I heard was the mirror breaking and Ralph's hands were up in the air."

Phillips said Argenziano told him he deserved what he got. "He was mad," Phillips said.

Caroline Leonard, 34, who lives in Vail, was riding her bike southbound along South Mission Road and witnessed Phillips' accident.

"When Ralph went down, he (Argenziano) said something like: 'I'm sorry, but you guys shouldn't be on the road anyway,' " Leonard said.

Argenziano, who says the cyclists were blocking the roadway, said Phillips ran into his vehicle, not the other way around. Argenziano said Phillips collided with his rear-view mirror, causing the cyclist to flip over his handlebars.

Tribal police just yesterday issued Argenziano a citation for unsafe passing in connection with Phillips' accident. Tohono O'odham Police Chief Lawrence Seligman said police had up to a year to issue a citation.

"We are a small agency with not a lot of developed expertise in accident investigation," he said, explaining the delay.

He was unsure about the amount of the fine on Argenziano's ticket.

An Arizona law that took effect July 18 imposes a fine of up to $500 on motorists who cause "serious physical injury" while passing cyclists. The law specifies a passing distance of at least three feet, but it exempts motorists from the penalty if a bicyclist is using a traffic lane when a designated bicycle lane is present and passable.

Family and friends of Tucson real estate agent Brad Gorman pushed for the legislation after Gorman, 41, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle on Catalina Highway last year.

Argenziano said he is not employed, due to a disabling bone condition. Except for the two recent incidents with the cyclists, he has a clean driving record.

He had one felony conviction in Pima County Superior Court in connection with a 1984 incident. According to court records, he assaulted two men following an argument in traffic over headlight high beams. The men had been driving in a vehicle that passed the vehicle Argenziano and his wife were riding in. According to court records, both vehicles pulled over to the side of the road. Argenziano got in an argument with the men and hit them over the head with a wooden bat, the records say.

A judge set aside his conviction and restored his civil rights and his right to own a weapon in 1998.

Seligman said that as far as Tohono O'odham police are concerned, the case on the Phillips crash is closed. Robinson said the Sheriff's Department is not looking at Argenziano's incident with Phillips as part of its investigation into the crash with Cantor.

* Contact Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at sinnes at sign azstarnet period com.


Text of Arizona's three-foot passing law.

Arguably, the worst part of this law, 28-735C, is the work of Keith A. Bee's amendment. The part in blue CAPS is the new additions -- so it is easy to tell what changes were made by HB2625 (link to full text on state website, also reproduced below):

-----------------------------
  Senate Engrossed House Bill
 -----------------------------
  State of Arizona
  House of Representatives
  Forty-fourth Legislature
  Second Regular Session
  2000
 -----------------------------
        CHAPTER 276
 -----------------------------
      HOUSE BILL 2625
 -----------------------------

AN ACT

AMENDING TITLE 28, CHAPTER 3, ARTICLE 7, ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES, BY ADDING SECTION 28-735; AMENDING SECTION 28-3164, ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES; RELATING TO BICYCLES.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

Section 1. Title 28, chapter 3, article 7, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 28-735, to read:

28-735. Overtaking bicycles; civil penalties

A. WHEN OVERTAKING AND PASSING A BICYCLE PROCEEDING IN THE SAME DIRECTION, A PERSON DRIVING A MOTOR VEHICLE SHALL EXERCISE DUE CARE BY LEAVING A SAFE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE MOTOR VEHICLE AND THE BICYCLE OF NOT LESS THAN THREE FEET UNTIL THE MOTOR VEHICLE IS SAFELY PAST THE OVERTAKEN BICYCLE.

B. IF A PERSON VIOLATES THIS SECTION AND THE VIOLATION RESULTS IN A COLLISION CAUSING:

1. SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY AS DEFINED IN SECTION 13-105 TO ANOTHER PERSON, THE VIOLATOR IS SUBJECT TO A CIVIL PENALTY OF UP TO FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

2. DEATH TO ANOTHER PERSON, THE VIOLATOR IS SUBJECT TO A CIVIL PENALTY OF UP TO ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

C. SUBSECTION B OF THIS SECTION DOES NOT APPLY TO A BICYCLIST WHO IS INJURED IN A VEHICULAR TRAFFIC LANE WHEN A DESIGNATED BICYCLE LANE OR PATH IS PRESENT AND PASSABLE.

Sec. 2. Section 28-3164, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

28-3164. Original applicants; examination

A. The department may examine an applicant for an original driver license or the department may accept the examination conducted by an authorized third party pursuant to chapter 13 of this title or documentation of successful completion of a driver education course approved by the department. The examination shall include all of the following:

1. A test of the applicant's:

(a) Eyesight.

(b) Ability to read and understand official traffic control devices.

(c) Knowledge of safe driving practices and the traffic laws of this state, INCLUDING THOSE PRACTICES AND LAWS RELATING TO BICYCLES.

[... the rest snipped for space. There are no more changes below...]


Florida

Florida has a three-foot law effective September 2006. According to this article about the Florida law: "Florida is one of seven states with the passing law. Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin are among the others"

Florida bill: House 7079: Relating to Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, this was a VERY long bill but for our purposes here, the affected statute is F.S. 316.083. The change is very clean, it simply augments their general overtaking law, which was very similar to Arizona's 28-723 (the green underlined section is the new provision),

 

316.083  Overtaking and passing a vehicle.--The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

(1)  The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall give an appropriate signal as provided for in s. 316.156, shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

(2)  Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, on audible signal or upon the visible blinking of the headlamps of the overtaking vehicle if such overtaking is being attempted at nighttime, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

(3)  A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

 


Utah

Utah passed a fairly bizarre law in 2005, HB0049 second substitute. It adds the following new section -- be sure and read it twice!

41-6a-706.5. Operation of motor vehicle near bicycle prohibited.

An operator of a motor vehicle may not knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly operate a motor vehicle within three 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.

Section 2. Appropriation.
There is appropriated from the General Fund for fiscal year 2005-06, a one-time appropriation of $20,000 to the Utah Highway Patrol for a public education campaign to promote bicycle safety

.


Minnesota

Law added in 2004(?). Chapter 169, section 18 Driving Rules; they simply added a third paragraph to subdivision 3, Passing:

Subd. 3. Passing. The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

(1) the driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle;

(2) except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible warning, and shall not increase the speed of the overtaken vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle; and

(3) the operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.


Wisconsin

The granddaddy of them all? The nation's oldest three-foot law was enacted by the Wisconsin legislature with the 1973 Assembly Bill 1046, creating 346.075 (search for "ch. 346" at the legislature). Here is the present incarnation (note the Segway provisions):

346.07 Overtaking and passing on the left. The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions and special rules stated in ss. 346.075 (2) and 346.08 to 346.11 :

346.07(2) The operator of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

346.07(3) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the operator of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

346.075(1) The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device proceeding in the same direction shall  exercise due care, leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than 3 feet clearance when passing the bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device.

Also of note, bicycles must "reciprocate" the three-feet clearance -- as far as I know, this is unique to Wisconsin:

346.80(2)(c) Any person operating a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device upon a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a standing or parked vehicle or a vehicle proceeding in the same direction, allowing a minimum of 3 feet between the bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device and the vehicle, and shall give an audible signal when passing a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device rider proceeding in the same direction.


Oklahoma

House Bill No. 2926 from the 50th legislative session, 2006 (engrossed pdf/image , or rtf version) had a bunch of bicycle-related changes, including a "three feet" passing. The new law includes special fines a la Arizona, and also elected to create a whole new section rather than just amending their existing general overtaking law 47-11-303.

SECTION 3. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11-1208 of Title 47, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. When overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, a person driving a motor vehicle shall 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.

B. If a person violates the provisions of subsection A of this section and the violation results in a collision causing serious physical injury to another person, the person shall be subject to a fine of not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00).

C. If a person violates the provisions of subsection A of this section and the violation results in the death of another person, the person shall be subject to a fine of not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00).


Missouri

There was some push to do something with changing the passing laws in 2003 and 2004, but these didn't make it. Then, in 2005 the First Regular Session of the 93rd General Assembly enacted H.B. 487 and S.B. 372 which created section 304.678 RSMo did get some interesting changes, with no specific distance is written into the law. According to MoBikeFed: "When MoBikeFed proposed a safe passing law in 2005, opposition from insurance companies led to the removal of the phrase that said, "but in no case less than three feet". In any event, this law makes any passing collision (I don't like the term "accident") a crime, which is fairly remarkable.

Distance to be maintained when overtaking a bicycle--violation, penalty.

304.678. 1. The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, as defined in section 300.010, RSMo, shall leave a safe distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

2. Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of an infraction unless an accident is involved in which case it shall be a class C misdemeanor.

(L. 2005 H.B. 487) *This section was enacted by both H.B. 487 and S.B. 372 during the First Regular Session of the 93rd General Assembly, 2005. Due to possible conflict, both versions are printed here.

 


Other Places

Here are a couple of examples or cities that have their own three-foot rules. There are probably many others. The city of Nashville, TN:

12.16.020 Passing C. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, but not less than three feet clearance, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

The city of Boulder, CO:

7-4-35 ...any vehicle may pass to the left of a bicycle, electric assisted bicycle, or moped within the same lane if it is done in safety and if the overtaking vehicle does not come within three feet of the bicycle or moped

TEXAS: The Texas Bicycle Coalition is gearing up: "...support the Coalition’s goal of raising $12,000 to fund our Safe Passing bill campaign for the 2007 Legislative session"

COLORADO: from Bicycle Reseller and Industry News, Dec 1, 2000: "Bicycle Colorado hopes to re-introduce SB-41, or the bicycle safety bill, into the next session of the Colorado legislature. The bill, introduced two years ago, failed by a single vote in the legislature"


October 2006: My musings on Arizona's "Three-Foot Passing" law, five years later

PRO

The educational augmentation, 28-3164(1)(c), is useful -- it simply added "including those practices and laws relating to bicycles" to the list of things applicants for a driver's licencse are supposed to know.

Having a definitive distance lends itself to being easily understood by everyone. It lends itself to "sound bites" and slogans that can be useful for educating the public, e.g. "Three-feet, it's the law..."

CON

Efficacy is uncertain....probably impossible to measure.

The provision of 28-735(C) is onerous. Note that Arizona does not have "mandatory use" of bike lanes provision.

The law is rarely invoked, twice in five years that I know of. I doubt that the law has EVER or will ever be applied to a simple "close pass".

I believe the notion of extra penalties for one type of crash is wrong. (I believe penalties for negligent drivers who maim/kill people need to be stiffened -- but doing so one statute at a time seems ridiculous).

 

Attempts to reform the law have been unsuccessful. Leading me to re-think the theory of accepting a law with warts in the hopes that it can be "fixed" later.

Arizona's pre-existing generic vehicle overtaking law is: 28-723, it states that the driver of the overtaking vehicle must pass "at a safe distance" -- was that really so bad?

 


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