Story in the Scottsdale Times about 3-foot law

This is a freebie paper published under various names: The Scottsdale Times, The Ahwatukee Times, etc…

I was generally not terribly unhappy (see my general complaints about media bias ) with how it turned out. I was pleased that the reporter, Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, was willing to spend some time researching information I sent her prior to a phone interview, which itself lasted perhaps 15 minutes. The parts I spoke with the reporter about came out pretty well:

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were 1,914 accidents in Arizona last year involving automobiles and bicycles. A total of 25 bicyclists were killed by motorists in 2009, and 19 were killed in 2010. For comparison, a total of 762 motorists were killed [*] on Arizona roads during 2010, a fact Ed Beighe, of, a bicyclist activist website, says should be noted. “So while we’d all like to see bicycling be safer, bicycling represents a small part of an overall large problem,” Beighe says.

The number of injuries to bicyclists number in the thousands, however. There were 1,648 reported injuries to bicyclists in 2009 and another 1,583 in 2010.

“Most bicyclist-motor vehicle collisions occur when one or the other is making a turn movement [this probably would have been better stated as “turning and crossing” movements] — and not overtaking,” says Beighe, who stresses that he is not a lawyer. “But the relatively few overtaking collisions (bicycle struck from behind by a passing motorist) that do occur tend to be more serious than average.”

He says the 3-foot passing law is helpful in raising awareness among motorists. It shows drivers what to expect when overtaking and what they should see. However, Beighe says, the law itself is difficult to enforce and, in fact, “very, very few” citations have been issued outside of a collision, where it is often irrefutable that the motorist encroached upon the 3-foot right-of-way.

In many cases, when a bicyclist is struck and either injured or killed, no citation is issued for not allowing for three feet of clearance, says Sterling Baer, co-founder of Not One More Cyclist and himself an avid cyclist. The reason is that the cause of the accident often becomes a criminal act rendering the 3-foot citation irrelevant, as it takes a backseat to more serious felony charges.

“It actually hides or sort of skews the real statistics that show many of these kinds of events are happening,” Baer says.

berth rights: State law affords bicyclists a 3-foot right of way. Just try telling them it’s unsafe.


* The 762 figure is mis-stated. There were a total of 762 persons killed in fatal traffic collisions. Since 19 pedalcyclists and 155 pedestrians were included within that total, that leaves 588 motorists killed. See adot-2010-crash-facts for references.