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Old 09-06-08, 09:41 AM   #1
Bob T
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Are "three-foot laws" worth the effort?

This question is for cyclists living in states which have enacted so-called "three-foot laws" (especially those who have been involved in getting such laws enacted). Do you feel that these efforts have been worthwhile? Has this law benefited cyclists in any way?

The state where I live requires passing at a "safe distance", but does not define what this means.

I have a feeling that there will always be a minority of drivers who will pass closely no matter what the law says.
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Old 09-06-08, 10:11 AM   #2
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There are plenty of yahoos who will do anything no matter what the law says. Some know the law and willfully disregard it like red light runners. Others do not know the law and break it out of ignorence.

How many motorists do you think are even aware of the "three foot laws"? I would bet that many police officers are not aware of them.
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Old 09-06-08, 10:48 AM   #3
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A quantitative law may be easier to enforce than a "safe distance" law. Sometimes we need all the legal ammunition we can get.
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Old 09-06-08, 10:54 AM   #4
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Bicycle laws are only useful after something happens. A lot of the public won't know about the law and of those who do, only some will follow them.

I simply ride a foot or two to the left of the white line, often that is right where most people have their passenger side tires. No car can pass me without crossing the drivers side tires over the double yellows. That sends every single driver on the road a clear message.

If they think they can squeak by, they will try it. If you remove that possibility, they will wait or give you plenty of room. Only times I've been passed too close is when I was riding on or to the right of the white line due to road conditions (pot holes, cracks, etc). Just my experience.
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Old 09-06-08, 11:07 AM   #5
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This question is for cyclists living in states which have enacted so-called "three-foot laws" (especially those who have been involved in getting such laws enacted). Do you feel that these efforts have been worthwhile? Has this law benefited cyclists in any way?

The state where I live requires passing at a "safe distance", but does not define what this means.

I have a feeling that there will always be a minority of drivers who will pass closely no matter what the law says.
3 foot law seems to me the same as seat belt laws. I don't know how many vehicles are pulled over where the only apparent violation is lack of seat belt. Generally, something else gets them pulled over and then lack of seat belt use is tacked on top of it.

The 3 foot law seems to be something that can be tacked onto something else that was violated ...
like ... "speeding, wreckless driving, running over a cyclist... and oh yeah ... we'll add the 3 foot law on top of that." Note: in some places, drivers don't consider running over a cyclist a violation
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Old 09-06-08, 12:01 PM   #6
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Well, it is not like Big Brother is using video surveillance, to monitor and enforce three feet of clearance, but if a motorist actually hits a cyclist, it is a lot easier to show negligence if the motorist was supposed to leave three feet of clearance. In my area, it is a "no harm, no foul" situation; if a cyclist is not actually hit, the motorist has left enough room, even if it was a mere millimeter, and the motorist veered toward the cyclist intentionally. "Buzzing" is largely legal in areas without a minimum-clearance standard.
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Old 09-06-08, 02:20 PM   #7
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I feel they are worth it. One, because when they are passed, usually the local media will cover the story about the law. Two, we've just passed the law here in SC, and yes, on one occasion, they actually nailed a motorist passing me too close that forced me to the grass shoulder. Ticket issued to motorist.

Will these laws actually make a difference in the long run? Probably not but it's better than nothing.
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Old 09-06-08, 03:10 PM   #8
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They're worth it if you have one of those cycling cameras, otherwise it's just going to be a big argument in the road that some cyclists love more than the actual act of cycling.
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Old 09-06-08, 03:14 PM   #9
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Not enforceable on any real level to make a difference.

Only time tickets will be issues is after somebody gets nailed. Already laws on the books that idiots that pass too close could be charged with but unless a cop is there to witness it it does no good.
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Old 09-06-08, 03:27 PM   #10
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A quantitative law may be easier to enforce than a "safe distance" law. Sometimes we need all the legal ammunition we can get.
+1

Cops like laws that are enforceable.
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Old 09-06-08, 06:33 PM   #11
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What's the point of the 3 foot law when cyclists "come out of nowhere" and "swerved in front of the car" all so suddenly and unpredictably?
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Old 09-06-08, 08:11 PM   #12
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What's the point of the 3 foot law when cyclists "come out of nowhere" and "swerved in front of the car" all so suddenly and unpredictably?
what ever happened to the "if you rear end someone your at fault" deal? It seems that isn't applied to cyclists, even when they magically swerve in front of every car that hits them.
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Old 09-06-08, 08:51 PM   #13
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if they think they can squeak by, they will try it. If you remove that possibility, they will wait or give you plenty of room. Only times i've been passed too close is when i was riding on or to the right of the white line due to road conditions (pot holes, cracks, etc). Just my experience.
+1
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Old 09-06-08, 09:56 PM   #14
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After thinking on it a bit, three feet is a good distance to estimate, without measuring. An officer who tickets a motorist obviously is not able to measure the true distance. In traffic court, officers are often asked to testify on distance in terms of car lengths. Well, three feet is about half a car width, half the height of a man, the distance from midline to fingertip on a man's body, or a bit more than one long pace. We all probably remember, also, school teachers handling yardsticks. (It's probably meter sticks these days?)
Believe me, if Texas passes a three-foot rule, I will gladly enforce it.
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Old 09-07-08, 12:22 AM   #15
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Only point to it, IMO, is to use it as an excuse for advocating sharrows, bike boulevards and/or legal reason to take the lane on a sub-14 foot wide street, provided the law in the specific area allows full lane use on substandard width roads (FL law, for instance).

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Old 09-07-08, 06:01 AM   #16
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Bicycle laws are only useful after something happens. A lot of the public won't know about the law and of those who do, only some will follow them.

I simply ride a foot or two to the left of the white line, often that is right where most people have their passenger side tires. No car can pass me without crossing the drivers side tires over the double yellows. That sends every single driver on the road a clear message.

If they think they can squeak by, they will try it. If you remove that possibility, they will wait or give you plenty of room. Only times I've been passed too close is when I was riding on or to the right of the white line due to road conditions (pot holes, cracks, etc). Just my experience.
This is one of the most important lessons that I've picked up on these forums. If you're just a few inches to the left of the line, it somehow forces cars to take you seriously and pass you carefully, but if you're to the right at all it's an invitation to be passed without any room.
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Old 09-07-08, 11:17 AM   #17
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This question is for cyclists living in states which have enacted so-called "three-foot laws" (especially those who have been involved in getting such laws enacted). Do you feel that these efforts have been worthwhile? Has this law benefited cyclists in any way?

The state where I live requires passing at a "safe distance", but does not define what this means.

I have a feeling that there will always be a minority of drivers who will pass closely no matter what the law says.
Here's my take on it:
Florida went from an "at a safe distance" law to a "3 ft." law a little over two years ago.

From the cyclist's point of view while on the road, nothing changed. The motorists who were giving the cyclist plenty of room before the 3' law passed, are still giving the cyclist plenty of room. The relative few Moron Cagers, are still Moron Cagers.

From a motorist's point of view on the road, nothing changed. The cyclists that were cycling in a safe and predictable manner, are still cycling in a safe and predictable manner. The bike riders that were traveling the wrong direction on the sidewalk, are still traveling the wrong direction on the sidewalk.

I am unsure if the "3 ft." law gives cyclists any more credibility than the "at a safe distance law", being that both give consideration to the safety of the cyclist.
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Old 09-07-08, 01:14 PM   #18
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I suspect it will take case law to prove/disprove its usefulness. However, I agree with those who believe it may help if you're hit from behind, since it should be easier to prove that it would be difficult for a rider to swerve more than 3', to get in front of a vehicle which carries collision marks in the middle of the bumper
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Old 09-07-08, 10:17 PM   #19
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This question is for cyclists living in states which have enacted so-called "three-foot laws" (especially those who have been involved in getting such laws enacted). Do you feel that these efforts have been worthwhile? Has this law benefited cyclists in any way?

The state where I live requires passing at a "safe distance", but does not define what this means.

I have a feeling that there will always be a minority of drivers who will pass closely no matter what the law says.
I don't know if Maryland is one of those states. But, I don't trust traffic to abide by it. That is why, I 'take the lane'. That way, the only thing the traffic can do is break the law by passing me. Unless it is a four-lane blacktop.
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Old 09-07-08, 10:54 PM   #20
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Bicycle laws are only useful after something happens. A lot of the public won't know about the law and of those who do, only some will follow them.

I simply ride a foot or two to the left of the white line, often that is right where most people have their passenger side tires. No car can pass me without crossing the drivers side tires over the double yellows. That sends every single driver on the road a clear message.

If they think they can squeak by, they will try it. If you remove that possibility, they will wait or give you plenty of room. Only times I've been passed too close is when I was riding on or to the right of the white line due to road conditions (pot holes, cracks, etc). Just my experience.

You are sort of, like me.

When a car tries to pass me on a two-lane blacktop with a double yellow line, I get mad!!!!!! The state law in Maryland, says cyclists are supposed to ride 'as close to the right side of the road as possible'. That leaves the judgment up to the cyclist, as to how close they can be to the side of the road.

It also says not to impede traffic which, to me, is a joke. A bike is a form of transportation and, in this state, it is considered a 'vehicle'.

Yet, They have no problem with motorists passing cyclists on a two-lane blacktop.

To me, the state is being hypocritical!!!
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Old 09-09-08, 08:21 AM   #21
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The passage of a "3 Feet of Love" law has had no effect on drivers in my state.

The problem -- no campaign built around it to education drivers. The law passed, a few newspapers did minor stories, then no mention of it, ever again, except among cyclists.

Too bad -- it was a lost opportunity to use the new law to enhance drivers' awareness of others on the road and of the need to keep their distance.
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Old 09-09-08, 08:48 AM   #22
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You are sort of, like me.

When a car tries to pass me on a two-lane blacktop with a double yellow line, I get mad!!!!!! The state law in Maryland, says cyclists are supposed to ride 'as close to the right side of the road as possible'. That leaves the judgment up to the cyclist, as to how close they can be to the side of the road.

It also says not to impede traffic which, to me, is a joke. A bike is a form of transportation and, in this state, it is considered a 'vehicle'.

Yet, They have no problem with motorists passing cyclists on a two-lane blacktop.

To me, the state is being hypocritical!!!
not "as close to the right as possible"
as close to the right as practicable and safe. Big difference.

From the annotated code of maryland:
21-1205 Riding on roadways or on highway.
(a) Riding to right side of roadway. – Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:
(1) Making or attempting to make a left turn;
(2) Operating on a one-way street;
(3) Passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle;
(4) Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
(5) The right lane is a right turn lane; or
(6) Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(b) Riding two abreast. – Each person operating a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway may ride two abreast only if the flow of traffic is unimpeded.
(c) Passing. – Each person operating a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a vehicle.
(d) Walking bicycles on right side of highway. – Each person operating a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway may walk the bicycle or motor scooter on the right side of a highway if there is no sidewalk.
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Old 09-09-08, 08:54 AM   #23
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Personally, I like 3 foot laws and wish we had one. For the past few years it's been bogged down in committee in Maryland and never made it to the floor, in of all things, the environmental committee if memory serves.

Three foot laws have two upsides, imo. First, is that motorists that are aware of the law, may alter their behavior. Second, by defining a distance, hitting someone proves that violating that distance occurred and subsequently, the prosecutor potentially has an extra violation with which he can charge the motorist.
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Old 09-10-08, 09:57 AM   #24
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Maine just passed that law about a year ago, and although it is hard to see a provable effect, I think overall it's worthwhile. It's certainly an incremental thing. Sure not everyone has heard about it, and not everyone who's heard about it likes it or cares, but then many people have and do. I think I've noticed a slight increase in safe passing, even in the number of people who pull clear over into the opposing lane to give me about 10' of room, which feels like kind of a mixed blessing! And I do agree that it's legally useful to have a number, although obviously that can't be proven in court with a ruler.

I had a close passing incident with a box truck last spring, and reported it to the police with the license number. The cop of course was pretty skeptical that there was any point in attempting to issue a ticket without other witnesses, but he did agree to talk to the registrant about it. I never got a followup, but I feel that having the law enabled me to make a more specific complaint. I was able to speak to the driver at the next light, and he obviously hadn't heard about the law (that he was letting on) and seemed incredulous that he had any duty towards me at all since I was not "in the path" (which was a debris-strewn shoulder). So yes, there will always be jerks.

FYI, our excellent state bicycle coalition was the prime mover behind the new law, working with bike-friendly state legislators to write and lobby for the bill. I think this is a good model for getting the legislation done anywhere.

FWIW, our law included a provision that motorists may cross a double yellow line in order to afford the 3' distance, the theory being that this would decrease attempts to squeeze through. Maybe this is why I get more people giving me much more room than they need to, because they hear "allowed to cross the double-yellow" as "allowed to pull into the opposing lane"!
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Old 09-10-08, 10:08 AM   #25
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Our Illinois three-foot law is helpful though it has not resulted in cycling paradise.
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