Three Foot Passing Laws

As of the 2013 legislative season, by my count, 21 US states have added three-or-more-foot passing provisions (not counting NY, Missouri or SC, which both relatively recently added “safe passing” laws without specifying a distance):

YEAR
ENACTED
STATE
2013 California AB 1371
2012 Pennsylvania HB 170 3303(3) FOUR foot passing
2011 Kansas HB2192 K.S.A. 8-1516
2011 Georgia
2011 Nevada SB248 NRS 484B.270
2010 New York* A10697 S 1122-A (right section, wrong bill?)
2010 Mississippi info
2010 Maryland
2009 Louisiana
2009 Colorado  info
2008 South Carolina *
2008 Connecticut
2008 New Hampshire
2007 Tennessee info
2007 Maine info
2007 Illinois info
2007 Arkansas info
2006 Florida
2006 Oklahoma
2005 Utah
2005 Missouri *
2004 Minnesota
2000 Arizona HB2625 44th/1st Regular. ARS 28-735
1973 Wisconsin

*NY, SC and MO: requires “safe operating” — not specific distance. I also need to look up NC; i seem to remember they have a 2-foot specification for passing.

For background, history and commentary on Three-foot “safe passing laws” see original page on azbikelaw.org

Since completing the roundup last year, I mainly hear of these through word-of-mouth, so please contact me if you have any more info.


  • IL, Illinois passed SB0080 Aug 16, 2007, which became Public Act 095-0231.
  • AR, Arkansas Act 681, passed Mar 29, 2007.
  • ME, Maine LD 1808, becomes Public Law Chapter 400, passed Jun 22, 2007
  • TN, Tennesee passes HB0235 — the “Jeff Roth Bicycle and Pedalcyclists Protection Act of 2007″, May 3, 2007. It is filed as Chapter 81 of 105th Legislture
  • WA, Washington. The CBCEF has a campaign at give3feet.org, which is sponsored by it includes some nifty graphics of three feet.
  • OR, Oregon had a bill that died, SB0299 (search for 299 in current/2007 measures), and passed as SB0108. Addresses passing , but not specific distance. I.e. no 3 feet.
  • CA, California AB 60 (search for 60 in assembly bills 2007/2008), withdrawn Apr 16, 2007.
  • CT, Public Act 08-01 enacted a new law in Connecticut, effective October 1, 2008, which requires motorists to allow at least three feet of separation
  • NH, HB-1203. Requires not only 3 feet, but also “one additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour above 30 miles per hour”. It has a few other provisions. An extra reflective strip must now be worn in the dark — good idea but seems to me to be an unnecessary legal burden on an otherwise well-lit cyclist.
  • FL, Florida State Statute 316.083, 316.085
  • SC, HB3006 passed in 2008, 5 foot distance was dropped from the bill but requires a “safe operating distance”, Section 56-5-3435. The law includes criminal penalties if the infraction results in serious injury or death, Section 56-5-3500. It even makes harassment a crime. There are other good new provisions, in addition to deleting the mandatory sidepath rule, new language in their ride-right rule makes clear “A bicyclist may, but is not required to, ride on the shoulder of the road”, Section 56-5-3430.
  • CO, Senate Bill 148 governor signed May 12, 2009. also includes something about 2 abreast, and other things. Details at Bicycle Colorado.
  • LA (Louisiana), general info: louisiana3feet.com (2009)
  • MS (Mississippi),  “The John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act”, SB3014, becomes law July 1, 2010. Some other stuff in there, not all good “Mississippi also joins the 41 states with discriminatory ‘Far to the Right’ laws on the books”, according to Richard Masoner. General info page: mississippi3feet.org
  • MD (Maryland), SB51 in 2010. Modifies transportation section 21-1209 (MD code currently here). Some intricate/odd features, such as if the road is not wide enough to allow 3 feet, drivers don’t have to… strange.
  • GA. HB101.  From 3footrule.com:  “May 11th – HB 101 Signed into Law – 3 Foot Safe Passing Rule was approved! Gov Deal signed HB 101 into law. April 14th, 2011 – HB 101 was approved by the House 150-9 with a 3 Foot Safe Passing amendment from the Senate. (Effective July 1, 2011)” Though if you read the bill/law it sounds weak motorist must allow at least three feet “when feasible”, so if it’s not feasible, anything goes. hmmm …
  • CA SB910 gets vetoed Oct 2011 (with a really stupid explanation by governor) — but in any event, I found 3 other states that i HAD MISSED entirely, so added them to the list: KS, NV, NY (all either in 2011 or 2010). this makes 20 by my count.
  • PA: HB 170 signed by governor Feb 2, 2012 — 4-foot passing distance. see e.g. bike-pgh.org. It has some other goodies too, but I’m afraid bicyle advocates got more than they bargained for, and not in a good way: the law also contains this abusable new section 3364(2): “A pedalcycle may be operated at a safe and reasonable speed appropriate for the pedalcycle. A pedalcycle operator shall use reasonable efforts so as not to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” (only applies to two-lane roads, though, so I guess that’s not terribly bad).
  • TX: although a bill was vetoed by Gov Perry in 2009,  with Houston’s passing an ordinance in 2013, many of Texas’ cities, and all large Texas cities, now have some form of safe passing law; For more on the Houston action see here and here.
  • CA: after several tries, including at least one veto, a 3-foot passing law made it in 2013:  AB1371

A perennial problem with any such law is lack of enforcement (or perhaps enforceability, depending on who you ask), e.g.  In the city of Tucson over an 18-month period there were a total of 3 citations according to tucsonbikelawyer.com; zero-citations-so-far-for-three-foot-passing-rule-in-tucson-this-year.

Here’s another roundup, current as of later part of 2008

Another one that is less recent according to the date, but is notable because it includes passing laws for all fifty states.

 

10 thoughts on “Three Foot Passing Laws”

  1. Are there any stats on how many of these tickets have been written?

    Seems like at least once a week I get passed too closely in view of a cop or by a police vehicle.

    I’d be curious to see how many such tickets have been written since 2000.

  2. I was recently asked to provide some legislative history on Arizona’s 3-foot passing law. I ended up researching the wrong bill, HB2503 in the 46th Legislature/1st regular session.
    The research for 28-735 will be posted soon.
    The research on HB2503 — which is valuable for other reasons — is posted here

  3. confirmed that the following states have nothing special for passing
    bicycles, or slow or other vulnerable traffic: HI ID IN NJ NM ND OH PA SD TX WV WY. (PA passed a 4foot law in early 2012)

    I found a few missing, and notes on a few others. It seems 50% of
    states now have reasonably-similar “3 foot laws”. Do you know if
    that’s become a part of UVC? There are ~25 variations on the same
    rule; it’s time to standardize, before more states include “extra”
    stuff like AZ.

    DE: http://delcode.delaware.gov/title21/c041/sc03/index.shtml
    |(3) The driver of a motor vehicle, when approaching a bicyclist traveling in the same direction, shall ensure the safety and protection of the bicyclist by:
    |
    |a. Proceeding with caution and yielding the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the bicyclist, if possible, with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a roadway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or,
    |
    |b. Proceeding with caution and reducing the speed of the vehicle to a safe speed and leaving a reasonable and prudent distance by providing a minimum of 3 feet of clearance while passing such bicyclist, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.

    MT: http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/61/8/61-8-320.htm
    | 61-8-320. Right-of-way for bicycles. (1) The operator of a motor vehicle may not:
    | (a) intentionally interfere with the movement of a person who is lawfully riding a bicycle; or
    | (b) overtake and pass a person riding a bicycle unless the operator of the motor vehicle can do so safely without endangering the person riding the bicycle.
    | (2) The operator of a motor vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a person who is riding a bicycle within a designated bicycle lane.
    (oh la la)

    VA specifies >=2 feet:
    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-839

    OH:
    (2) Nothing in division (B)(1) of this section requires a driver of a
    slower vehicle to compromise the driver’s safety to allow overtaking
    by a faster vehicle.

    WA: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.110
    This doesn’t specify a distance, and is kind of useless, especially
    with the phrase “to clearly avoid coming into contact”.

    RI: this is odd, very good in some ways, but bad in others:
    http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-15/31-15-18.HTM
    |
    |”The driver of a motor vehicle may only pass a person operating a
    |bicycle”:
    | phrased with the burden on the motorist, good
    |
    |a “safe distance” means a distance that is sufficient to prevent
    |contact with the person operating the bicycle:
    | well, that seems |completely inadequate, but continues:
    |
    |”if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic”:
    | that’s odd to write down legislatively, but seems to mean
    | mean >3feet (height of bicycle plus torso).
    |
    |”This subdivision does not apply to a driver operating a motor
    |vehicle:”
    |
    | (i) In a lane that is separate from and adjacent to a designated
    | bicycle lane;
    | Aha, so RI has actually codified the “City of Flagstaff”
    |interpretation! Paint a white line, and anything that doesn’t
    |result in a collision is safe.

    MA:
    http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIV/Chapter89/Section2
    |[...] 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. [...]

    VT:
    http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=23&Chapter=013&Section=01033
    |(b) Passing vulnerable users. The operator of a motor vehicle
    |approaching or passing a vulnerable user as defined in subdivision
    |4(81) of this title shall exercise due care, which includes increasing
    |clearance, to pass the vulnerable user safely, and shall cross the
    |center of the highway only as provided in subdivision (a)(1) of this
    |section. (Added 1971, No. 258 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. March 1, 1973;
    |amended 2009, No. 114 (Adj. Sess.), § 2..)

    It doesn’t really count, but IA has:
    http://search.legis.state.ia.us/nxt/gateway.dll/ic/1/13/10773/11301/11302/11601?f=templates$fn=document-frameset.htm$q=field%20folio-destination-name:%27321.281%27$x=Advanced#0-0-0-150689
    321.281 Actions against bicyclists.
    1. A person operating a motor vehicle shall not steer the motor
    vehicle unreasonably close to or toward a person riding a bicycle on a
    highway, including the roadway or the shoulder adjacent to the
    roadway.

    Ohio, strangely, is missing two of the 815A exceptions (left or
    overtaking), and doesn’t include a “less than normal speed” clause.

    NE doesn’t have any “safe passing for bicycles”, but notably:
    it’s prohibited to removed feet from pedals.
    mandatory path
    specifically prohibits driving on shoulders (except for bicycles)

    Despite its horrible website, I found for NJ:

    39:4-100. Rate of speed across sidewalk
    No vehicle or horse shall be driven or ridden across a sidewalk at
    a rate of speed greater than four miles per hour.

    39:4-72. At the request of or upon a signal by putting up the hand or
    otherwise, from a person riding or driving a horse in the opposite
    direction, the motor vehicle driver shall cause the motor vehicle to
    stop and remain stationary so long as may be necessary to allow the
    horse to pass.

    39:4-32
    [...]
    |g.Nothing contained herein shall relieve a driver from the duty to
    |exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.
    |Nothing herein shall relieve a pedestrian from using due care for his
    |safety.
    |
    |h.In the event of a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian
    |within a marked crosswalk, or at an unmarked crosswalk at an
    |intersection, there shall be a permissive inference that the driver
    |did not exercise due care for the safety of the pedestrian.

    39:4-14.5.
    As used in this act “bicycle” means any two-wheeled vehicle having a
    rear drive wheel which is solely human-powered and having a seat
    height of 25 inches or greater when the seat is in the lowest
    adjustable position.

    39:4-12.
    prohibits riding without hands, removing feet from pedals and fancy
    riding :)

    The RI code is easy to navigate, looks pretty clean, but has this:
    http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-19/31-19-15.HTM
    | § 31-19-15 Left turns. – (a) A person riding a bicycle intending
    | to turn left shall, unless he or she complies with the provisions
    | of § 31-16-2, approach the turn in a position as close as
    | practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. The turn
    | shall be made at a position as close as practicable to the
    | right-hand curb or edge of the roadway along which the bicyclist
    | intends to proceed after turning.
    31-16-2 is the “vehicular” left turn; I guess 31-19-15 as phrased is
    premised on the idea that vehicular lefts are abnormal/atypical/weird
    for bicyclists. VA code resembles RI, but is phrased more clearly.

    RI (and at least OH) requires giving an audible signal when one
    vehicle overtakes another. Odd, but I guess that’s not necessarily
    bad. I assume it’s not enforced, and probably not common practice,
    either.

  4. Iowa Attorney General Rules on Interpretation of Passing Law for Bike

    The Iowa Attorney General has issued an opinion (binding on all county attorneys in the state, and law enforcement as well), that the Iowa Code requires vehicles passing bicyclists to give them the whole lane.

    The background to this opinion…

    The Iowa Code spells out what constitutes safe passing when vehicles on public roads pass other vehicles (321.299). Although most people believe that a bicycle is a vehicle, in Iowa this is not the case. Anything that is human-powered cannot, by the definitions in the Iowa Code, be a vehicle. Bicycles are defined as ‘devices’. Because of that definition (321.1, 40c), some county attorneys have concluded that bicycles are not vehicles, and therefore, the vehicles that pass them do not have to conform to the Code, which says that when passing you have to give the vehicle you’re passing the whole lane (that’s obvious for a car passing a car or truck, but it’s also what’s required when a car passes a motorcycle). Based on this interpretation, in some counties a vehicle can pass close to a bicycle and not be cited.

    That interpretation is now invalid. The State Attorney has ruled that because bicyclists have “all the rights and duties…applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” (321.213, 2), then the rules of 321 apply to them as well, which includes the rule of passing and giving the device/vehicle being passed the whole lane.

    Mark Wyatt, Executive Director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, has told the Coalition’s membership that county attorneys have just received a training notification regarding this opinion, and that subsequently we expect the passing law will be enforced state-wide. There is also buy-in from law enforcement.

    Already, the Iowa DOT Drivers Manual has been modified to read: “Give bicycle riders the room they deserve and need for safety. When passing a bicycle rider, pass as if the cyclist were a vehicle and move into the other lane.”

    Many states have a 3-foot passing law. Our law is now bigger than that, we have the full lane. This came about, in part, by the work of Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Consider joining: http://iowabicyclecoalition.org/

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