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Old 09-07-11, 07:47 AM   #1
unterhausen
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is it really legal for a car to pass a cyclist in the same lane?

Maybe this strays to far into VC, and if it is I'll move it. My question is if it's illegal to pass a car in the same lane, which it is, where is the exception for passing a bicycle in the same lane? I don't remember seeing one in the vehicle codes I've read.
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Old 09-07-11, 08:00 AM   #2
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I might be mistaken but in Texas, a car can pass a bicycle in the same lane if that lane is 14 ft wide (or more).
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Old 09-07-11, 08:01 AM   #3
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From the Texas, bicycle law perspective, cyclists are required to ride AFRAP (as far right as practical), unless the lane is less than 14' wide or it is not safe for a bike and car to operate alongside each other. Embedded in that is those conditions is the concept that if the lane is wider and it is otherwise safe to operate alongside a bike, it is legal for a car to pass.
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Old 09-07-11, 08:52 AM   #4
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I live in Texas and it is usually quite safe to pass in the same lane. What often happens, however, is that motorists will give far more room to the cyclist and pass by driving far into the oncoming lane on a two lane road. While I appreciate the extra room, I have seen this almost cause head on collisions in cases where cars are backed up and a 2nd or 3rd car makes the pass in the same process and gets too close to an oncoming car (the first car making the pass had plenty of time, but the cars behind it didn't and might not have realized an oncoming car was approaching until they got out there). On one relatively busy road I have seen this a few times and stopped riding there because I didn't want to be the source of an accident, even though it wouldn't be my fault.
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Old 09-07-11, 09:15 AM   #5
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Maybe I should have mentioned that I think it's fine if the lane is wide enough. I also would be pretty upset if people weren't allowed to pass me in a no passing zone.
In most states it's not legal to pass a slow moving vehicle in a no passing zone, but that is almost never enforced. In the few states where it is legal, it seems like the slow moving vehicle must be going less than 1/2 the speed limit.

I have a specific legal question, where is the actual legal justification for passing another vehicle in the same lane. I don't really consider the FRAP clause to imply that justification. Maybe I'm wrong and this is the legislative intent. States with 3 foot laws apparently have allowed passing in the same lane, but I'm not sure it's all that clear even in that case.
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Old 09-07-11, 09:58 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Maybe this strays to far into VC, and if it is I'll move it. My question is if it's illegal to pass a car in the same lane, which it is
I'm ignorant of this law. Please enlighten me?

In NY, this is all I can find:

Quote:
NY VAY Title 7 Article 25

1120. Drive on right side of roadway; exceptions. (a) Upon all
roadways of sufficient width a vehicle shall be driven upon the right
half of the roadway, except as follows:
1. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same
direction under the rules governing such movement;
2. When overtaking or passing bicyclists, pedestrians, animals or
obstructions on the right half of the roadway;


...

1122. Overtaking a vehicle on the left. 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:
(a) 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.
(b) 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 and shall not increase the
speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
I don't see anything making it illegal to pass a car in the same lane - if there were a lane wide enough.
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Old 09-07-11, 10:03 AM   #7
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I'm not aware of a law that says that a car can't pass another car in the same lane. However, physical limits tend to come into play for most lanes, making it impossible to do. In places where it is physically possible, I often see it when one car is preparing to make a right turn but otherwise, not so much.
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Old 09-07-11, 10:07 AM   #8
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Unless a vehicle is stopped for some reason, I won't pass them in the same lane. Because, Just as I 'take the lane' to avoid 'drifters' from the right, I won't pass them on the left, either.

Last edited by Chris516; 09-07-11 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 09-07-11, 10:38 AM   #9
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Eh, 3 foot laws would indicate that it's legal to pass halfway in the same lane, depending where the bike is. Because of where I ride, I'm often ridiculously far into the lane (the lane is as wide as a car plus a few inches, I'm riding in the middle. That 3 inch shoulder is not a bike lane), so I force drivers to change lanes anyway. MANY don't bother, and nearly knock me off--hence why I'm in the middle of the lane: plenty of room to swerve out of the way.

Yesterday in rainy conditions I had a driver move into the lane of opposing traffic as I came to a stop sign, then I turned in front of him (I verified where he was via mirror, and started to turn anyway). I had to bail on the turn--instead of stopping, he was planning on running the stop sign while passing me illegally in the lane of opposing traffic through an intersection while passing a park about a block and a half away from a middle school on a school day in a calmed residential zone. That's like half a dozen infractions right there.

Fortunately I had also accounted for him running the sign when I checked his position in the mirror, and had started a staged turn (i.e. a partial turn that I could complete or bail on quickly). I was fully prepared to bail on the turn and did so with a comfortable error margin.

I always turn left there. There's always a driver behind me and I use that stretch of (barrier-separated) sidewalk to reach the bike path 100 feet away. It's easier to negotiate the turn there than up ahead (because of the 4 way stop, versus just a clear, narrow road with no sidewalk on the right and a blind curve I have to turn across), and it gets me out of the road so I'm not annoying traffic unnecessarily. There's a series of intersections in a short distance, and that area has high contention; even if I'm going to bike in the road, I mainly bypass it to avoid creating a worse traffic situation by adding a slow-moving vehicle.

So, no, it's not likely legal to pass in the same lane unless the same lane is wide enough for 3 feet of passing clearance. But really who cares? Drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, they all follow the rules as they see fit and convenient. You should have a mirror and keep enough clearance on your right to swerve out of the way of way-too-close passing cars, just like you need to be aware of traffic behind and in front of you so you can swerve around absolutely brain damaged pedestrians wandering into the street on a cell phone looking--get this--in the direction of travel of the lane of traffic they're entering (i.e. away from you). I've almost destroyed a few people like that, just walked out in front of me from around giant SUVs, they just appear from nowhere.

Sometimes, the motorist really doesn't see the cyclist. Sometimes, the cyclist doesn't see the pedestrian. And sometimes, the range of fault is so wide spread and littered with so many failures and completely idiotic infractions that none of the people involved should be let out of their house ever again. Court will now hear the case of Smith v. Jones, driver too busy fishing around in his back seat while talking on his cell phone to see the cyclist that came riding 15mph wrong way left sidewalk and did a sharp turn wrong way into the road from behind a big truck head on into traffic.

The law is meaningless. It is a vessel for punishing people and maybe removing them from the system after they do some damage. It prevents nothing, it only eliminates repetition.
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Old 09-07-11, 12:52 PM   #10
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Eh, 3 foot laws would indicate that it's legal to pass halfway in the same lane, depending where the bike is.

<snip wall of words>
I believe the OP is about passing in the same lane...obviously if one is over the line they are not completely in the same lane.
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Old 09-07-11, 01:39 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by benjdm View Post
I don't see anything making it illegal to pass a car in the same lane - if there were a lane wide enough.
that may be the key. I'm thinking you would be cited by a LEO every time though.
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Old 09-07-11, 01:55 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by bluefoxicy View Post
.....I had to bail on the turn--instead of stopping, he was planning on running the stop sign while passing me illegally in the lane of opposing traffic through an intersection while passing a park about a block and a half away from a middle school on a school day in a calmed residential zone.......
Slightly off-topic, but this is exactly why I often won't turn left on a bicycle in traffic. Instead I proceed across the intersection and then stop on the far side and reorient my bike to cross with the cars on the following light.

All you have to experience is one car passing you sideways in the opposing traffic lane (on his way all the way around) as the driver realizes that you were turning left, and that he is about to slide backward back into your (his?) lane ahead of you, and off the road into a pole. "Cars don't kill cyclists, drivers do...", whether their actions are legal or not.

I have found that drivers will attempt to pass you in their lane, in your lane, or in the opposite lane, regardless of what is "legal". That is why I always get a kick out of threads that start out "Is it really legal to....".
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Old 09-07-11, 03:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I have a specific legal question, where is the actual legal justification for passing another vehicle in the same lane. I don't really consider the FRAP clause to imply that justification. Maybe I'm wrong and this is the legislative intent. States with 3 foot laws apparently have allowed passing in the same lane, but I'm not sure it's all that clear even in that case.
It is a good question, but one that I believe has a very muddy answer. Most of the passing laws were originally written when roadways were not even painted. Thus the somewhat obscured wording of right side and left side of the roadway rahter than talking about specific operation in separate lanes. Case laws have muddied the water even more, and now we have 3 foot laws for cyclist making it even less clear with the express implication that sharing a lane is OK.

The only laws that I am aware of making lane position clear, are a couple of motorcycle laws that expressly allow one motorcycle to pass another in the same lane if it can be safely performed. There may be companion laws making it clear the non-motorcycle motorist must not pass a motorcycle in the same lane.

Clearly current case passing laws consider passing another motorist (should apply to passing cyclist as well) in the same lane as an "unsafe passing" infraction with little other clarification.

Like I said, muddy.

Hope someone comes up with a crystal clear state law for not lane sharing.
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Old 09-07-11, 03:39 PM   #14
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In California, two vehicles are allowed to occupy the same lane provided it is safe to do so. Cali is also one of the few places that has traffic laws that are intentionally open to interpretation, and being "safe" is definitely one. SO, if an officer sees someone pass a bike in a way that endangers the cyclist, they would have the grounds to write a ticket. If no one was endangered, then they would not. The officer would also have to decide if the cyclist also contributed or caused the unsafe condition. Judges have long proven that they are willing to hear arguments about "safe" here too.

This is also why lane-splitting is legal for motorcycles on the freeways here. And it's why it's legal for you us to pull our bicycles alongside other cars in a left-turn lane-the safest spot for us to be is actually alongside the other car, not between their bumpers.

This entire system may have flaws, but it has been proven over many decades. It requires that both vehicle operators exercise good judgement. Obviously, if you are at greater exposure to injury (say, on a bike rather than in a car), you adjust your personal definition of "safe" too.
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Old 09-07-11, 04:07 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I have a specific legal question, where is the actual legal justification for passing another vehicle in the same lane. I don't really consider the FRAP clause to imply that justification. Maybe I'm wrong and this is the legislative intent. States with 3 foot laws apparently have allowed passing in the same lane, but I'm not sure it's all that clear even in that case.
Our system of laws in the US does not generally state what one may do; they state what one shall or shall not do, and anything not in conflict with these laws is allowed.

Sometimes a law mandating or prohibiting something is equiped with an exception stating when one is not required to comply, i.e. when one may do something in conflict with it. But it is the general restriction that warrants the specific exception language. Were it not for the restriction, the exception would not need to be stated.

For instance, in states with a law that requires bicyclists to stay to the right within a marked travel lane, an exception may be provided saying when cyclists may use the full lane. In states without such a laws, the cyclist is not required to stay right within the marked lane. I once had a police officer challenge me to say where in the NC code it said a cyclist could ride in the center of the lane. I told him to find the place where it said I couldn't. Of course, he failed to do so, which is the point.

Different states have different restrictions on how not passing on the right, not straddling lane lines, not passing too closely, etc. so in some states it may not be possible to pass within the same lane under certain circumstances where it would be legal in other states.
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Old 09-07-11, 07:57 PM   #16
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Recently one of our formerly one-way-two-lane city streets was converted to two-way-two-lane. The local residents thought it would do some traffic calming. Now there is not enough room for a car and bike in one lane, so if a car wants to pass me it has to cross a double-yellow line. I think this is always illegal for the car.
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Old 09-07-11, 08:26 PM   #17
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I think this is always illegal for the car.
My thinking is that this is legal. AFAIK a car does not have to wait for a passing zone to pass a slow moving vehicle.
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Old 09-07-11, 09:11 PM   #18
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Recently one of our formerly one-way-two-lane city streets was converted to two-way-two-lane. The local residents thought it would do some traffic calming. Now there is not enough room for a car and bike in one lane, so if a car wants to pass me it has to cross a double-yellow line. I think this is always illegal for the car.
In many states, there's no exception in the double yellow rule for passing a bicyclist, so it is indeed illegal for cars to pass. The vast majority of my riding is done on narrow rural roads with one lane in each direction, so cars are technically required to follow me until one of us turns off (potentially 10-15 miles) if they follow that law.

Granted I believe PA is an exception since double yellows are advisory here.
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Old 09-07-11, 09:44 PM   #19
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The law is meaningless. It is a vessel for punishing people and maybe removing them from the system after they do some damage. It prevents nothing, it only eliminates repetition.
+1!!
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Old 09-07-11, 10:14 PM   #20
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My thinking is that this is legal. AFAIK a car does not have to wait for a passing zone to pass a slow moving vehicle.
As with most traffic codes, that varies by state, but you're right in many if not most states, there are multiple exceptions for crossing a double-yellow line.

For example, in Washington State, no-passing zone markings are established here:

RCW 46.61.130

No-passing zones.


(1) The state department of transportation and the local authorities are authorized to determine those portions of any highway under their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or driving to the left of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may by appropriate signs or markings on the roadway indicate the beginning and end of such zones. When such signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person every driver of a vehicle shall obey the directions thereof.

(2) Where signs or markings are in place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection (1) of this section, no driver may at any time drive on the left side of the roadway within the no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed to mark the no-passing zone throughout its length.

(3) This section does not apply under the conditions described in RCW 46.61.100(1)(b), nor to the driver of a vehicle turning left into or from an alley, private road, or driveway.




Note (3) -- you have to go look at 46.61.100(1)(b) to see what the exceptions are to what would otherwise be an almost absolute prohibition.


Those exceptions are



(b) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway; provided, any person so doing shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;


So you can cross the double-yellow if there's an obstruction, but there's no definition here of what constitutes an obstruction.
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Old 09-07-11, 10:22 PM   #21
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Passing laws generally say the overtaking vehicle must pass the slower vehicle "to the left thereof at a safe distance", but don't actually specify a different lane. (As always, there are state variations.)

"a safe distance" isn't defined in many states; in other states, there's a specific 3-foot minimum for passing bicycles. In Washington, we have "to the left at a safe distance to clearly avoid coming into contact with the pedestrian or bicyclist" but without the 3-foot measurement.

If you have a lane wide enough to pass another car safely, you can do so. (Seattle often doesn't stripe two lanes on roads wide enough to handle two lanes of traffic, they just stripe the center line. If cars are parked, drivers form one line left; if cars aren't parked, drivers form two lines even though there isn't a separately-striped lane. Seattle PD says that's correct, as long as there's room to pass the other cars at a safe distance.)
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Old 09-07-11, 10:30 PM   #22
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Yellow lines separate vehicle traffic lanes moving in opposite directions. They include:
Broken yellow lines: A single broken yellow line usually marks the centerline of a two-way roadway where a vehicle may pass if it is safe.
Solid yellow lines: If a solid yellow line is on your side of the centerline of a roadway, do not cross over it to pass. On a four-lane divided roadway or a one-way road, a solid yellow line usually marks the left edge of the pavement. A double solid yellow line down the middle of a two-lane roadway means that passing is not allowed for vehicles traveling in either direction.
Center lane, left-turn-only: Many roads have a left-turn only lane to help traffic flow more smoothly. Each outside edge of this lane is marked with a solid yellow line with broken yellow lines on the inside edges. Left turns must be made from within this lane, and may be made from either direction. Using this lane to pass other vehicles or as a merge lane is both dangerous and illegal.

www.Michigan.gov/sos

Also see: http://www.m-bike.org/blog/laws/


But even if you are legally riding two abreast and a line of traffic forms behind you could still be cited for impeading traffic.
That is, if you haven't been run off or run over.

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Old 09-08-11, 04:15 AM   #23
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does anyone care enforcement wise? (no)

is there anything to be done about it short of improved passing laws?

And, is this a theoretical question? Because in Pennsylvania vehicles CAN pass within the same lane and to the right pursuant to PA state traffic law.

so it's legal for bicyclists to pass cars to the right, and bikes can either ride on the road or the shoulder to do so in pennsylvania.

I wouldnt worry about it.

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Old 09-11-11, 02:03 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by SBRDude View Post
I live in Texas and it is usually quite safe to pass in the same lane. What often happens, however, is that motorists will give far more room to the cyclist and pass by driving far into the oncoming lane on a two lane road. While I appreciate the extra room, I have seen this almost cause head on collisions in cases where cars are backed up and a 2nd or 3rd car makes the pass in the same process and gets too close to an oncoming car (the first car making the pass had plenty of time, but the cars behind it didn't and might not have realized an oncoming car was approaching until they got out there). On one relatively busy road I have seen this a few times and stopped riding there because I didn't want to be the source of an accident, even though it wouldn't be my fault.
Hi, I am in Austin also. Just wondering, is what you describe at the north end of Emerald Forest or where it turns into Vinson?

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Old 09-11-11, 04:44 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catmandew52 View Post
But even if you are legally riding two abreast and a line of traffic forms behind you could still be cited for impeading traffic.
That is, if you haven't been run off or run over.
Not properly cited. Case law from Georgia and Ohio cases state that if a vehicle (such as farm equipment, bicycle, etc.) are moving at a speed reasonable for that vehicle, they are NOT impeding traffic. They would have to comply with slow moving vehicle laws that require them to turn out when safe to do so if x number of faster vehicles back up behind them.
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