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  1. #1
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    Safe Passing Distance

    Here's the scenario. You're on a street in a residential area. The street is about 28-30' wide and has the double yellow line running down the middle. The speed limit is 35mph. It's 5:30am and there's no traffic. If a car passes you, how many feet should they give you as they pass you on your bike? If you are jogging or walking, how many feet should they give you as they pass you?

    Last couple of mornings I've been measuring the distance one of the delivery guys passes me at. I know he drives 35-40mph on that particular road and I've measured his passing distance to be about 3.5' from me. It is the same way every morning I'm out there biking or jogging.

  2. #2
    Senior Member thePig's Avatar
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    For me a good distance is length of my arm. If i could reach out and touch the car then they are definitely too close. The further away they are the better.
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  3. #3
    my brain hurts! fosmith's Avatar
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    in many places 3 feet is the law

  4. #4
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Any vehicle that doesn't actually contact me is far enough away, but if they pass within a metre for no apparent reason, I think it's a bit rude.
    Last edited by Allister; 05-14-08 at 09:05 AM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allister View Post
    .... I think it's a bit ride.
    You mean rude.
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    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    At the speed postulated, I concur that one yard or one meter/metre is a reasonable minimum passing distance, and anything closer than that qualifies as discourteous and unsafe intimidation or right-of-way violation. I can live with a smaller passing distance at low speeds, and I would favor a more generous margin at higher speeds.
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  7. #7
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
    You mean rude.
    Oops. Edited. Cheers.
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  8. #8
    Pat
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    When I drive and pass a cyclist, I give them the whole lane, if possible. Otherwise, I slow down a bit and pass when I can give them ample room, which is much more than 3'.

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    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clarks View Post
    Here's the scenario. You're on a street in a residential area. The street is about 28-30' wide and has the double yellow line running down the middle. The speed limit is 35mph. It's 5:30am and there's no traffic. If a car passes you, how many feet should they give you as they pass you on your bike? If you are jogging or walking, how many feet should they give you as they pass you?

    Last couple of mornings I've been measuring the distance one of the delivery guys passes me at. I know he drives 35-40mph on that particular road and I've measured his passing distance to be about 3.5' from me. It is the same way every morning I'm out there biking or jogging.
    How much room to you leave them to pass you without them crossing the dubyellow?

    Al

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    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fosmith View Post
    in many places 3 feet is the law
    I think there are only five or six states that have that law.
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    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    Anything less than 3 feet I view as intentional/intimidation or an outright moronic driver.
    3 feet is actually pretty close. I'm pretty sure that nobody would like to stand in the middle of street while cars blow by you at 40mph at a distance of less than 3 feet.
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    Senior Member StrangeWill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thePig View Post
    For me a good distance is length of my arm. If i could reach out and touch the car then they are definitely too close. The further away they are the better.
    At 35 mph, I like this rule. Of course at faster speeds I want them further, and at slower speeds (nearly my speed) I wouldn't mind being within touching distance.

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    In Maine, three feet is a safe passing distance by state law. It's been respected lately.
    Last edited by powerhouse; 05-15-08 at 09:51 AM.

  14. #14
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    Indiana, too.

    I like 1 meter better -- but we're not metric.

    Just curious -- why would you be jogging on the road? No shoulder? Ditches? Guardrails? Pavement is SO hard on the knees...that's why jogging is listed as high-impact.

  15. #15
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    Illinois law reads:
    The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle shall leave a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle and shall maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle

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    I made a mistake, the street where he passes me with 3.5' has a speed limit of 30, not 35.

    I should also say that I've talked to the guy several times so he's not a 'stranger'. I think the only reason i'm 'comfortable' with his distance is that I've talked to him face to face a couple of times. If he were a stranger I would consider his driving rude and inconsiderate, that's odd but that's the way it is. Honestly i really dont see how he is comfortable driving that close when he has the whole road and no other traffic.

  17. #17
    JRA. BikEthan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeWill View Post
    At 35 mph, I like this rule. Of course at faster speeds I want them further, and at slower speeds (nearly my speed) I wouldn't mind being within touching distance.
    I would. It doesn't take much to get knocked off your bike when the first thing a car will hit is your handlebar. And once you've gotten knocked off your bike you're at the mercy of whatever car just hit you or the one behind it. A few cyclists have died in Boston alone from this type of accident. They get knocked off their bike by one car and land under a bus or garbage truck or some such. 3' always.

  18. #18
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Here in Illinois we also have the 3-foot rule.

    Like others here, when speed differences are great or the roads are wet, I would much rather have more room, don't feel endangered when only three feet are given, and believe anything less to be dangerous.

    As a driver, I like to give at least six feet unless speeds are very low.
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  19. #19
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I wouldn't be worried one bit about this driver. They know you, they see you and they pass consistently. (If every driver could be counted on doing this most cyclist-driver communication and 'take the lane' positioning would not be needed anymore.) I also don't think you could argue that they are not giving safe passing clearance as required by law - especially as several states have set the standard minimum at less than you are getting.
    Al

  20. #20
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    I ride with a Take a Look mirror. Whenever I see an overtaking driver is not moving over enough for my liking, I move my bike left in the lane. This forces the overtaking driver to move left also. As they get close, I move back to the right. When they pass me, I typically have 2 meters or more of separation.

    My lateral moves are done subtly, and allow plenty of time for the overtaking driver to take appropriate action. With the mirror, this manuever becomes second nature and ensures that I rarely get a "close shave".

    This approach does not seem to disturb overtaking drivers...I rarely have anyone honk or yell at me. And I only employ it on narrow roadways.

    Note: I think it's particularly important to do this with pickup trucks towing trailers - often the drivers are unaware of how wide their trailers are, and how close they get to cyclists when they move back over to the right. I was injured last year when I got clipped by a trailer, and I'm now quite assertive about forcing them move over to the left or, forcing them to wait to pass me until its safe.
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  21. #21
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clarks View Post
    Here's the scenario. You're on a street in a residential area. The street is about 28-30' wide and has the double yellow line running down the middle. The speed limit is 35mph. It's 5:30am and there's no traffic.
    Every morning I cycle 1/2mi on such a street - half with half without the //. In that half mile I get passed between 1-3 times every morning. Very light traffic. In the PM 3mi

    I ride about 3' to the right of the centerline of the street pavement. If a vehicle approaches from behind I move right as they get near, usually after I note them moving a bit left. This most, if not every time, has resulted in 6-10' passing clearance.

    Al

  22. #22
    Senior Member StrangeWill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikEthan View Post
    I would. It doesn't take much to get knocked off your bike when the first thing a car will hit is your handlebar. And once you've gotten knocked off your bike you're at the mercy of whatever car just hit you or the one behind it. A few cyclists have died in Boston alone from this type of accident. They get knocked off their bike by one car and land under a bus or garbage truck or some such. 3' always.
    Meh when I'm down by the beach and the cars are putting along at 10-15mph I really don't mind, especially considering people filter stopped traffic at a much more drastic difference than 0-5mph.

    And really, those that are close generally seem to be much more cautious around me, as opposed to those that may be further, but are chatting on their cell phone and can't pick a lane position.

    But to each their own, the most dangerous kind of riding is that which makes the cyclist feel at exceptional risk.

  23. #23
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Get a brightly colored reflective flag. (or three) Put it on a springy 3 foot stick. Lash the stick to your frame/rack, sticking out to the left side. Enjoy.
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  24. #24
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    I'm happy if they're over 18 inches from the extreme most part of my bike (which is generally going to be the handlebars).

    It would be nice to have a few more inches for every 5mph over 35 though, change in aerodynamics that larger trucks introduce. A bus at 35 is a scary thing if he's only 18 inches away! You can feel a semi 6 feet away if he's doing 60.

    So, I think it's an equation of vehicle size and speed. Generally speaking, if you're a decent human being you'll never pass a bike too close. If you passed one too close, you're probably some sub-human mutation.

  25. #25
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    For me a pass seems closer in the dark than a pass at the same distance in daylight.

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