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  1. #1
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Curiosity regarding local law enforcement's(state, county, city) policy on 3ft

    Since regional law enforcement includes DC, along with the Maryland State Police and Virginia Highway Patrol, seven county(4-MD, 3-VA), seven city(DC, 2-MD, 4-VA), and nine university(Univ. of MD, Univ. of VA, Univ. of DC, American Univ., Howard Univ., Gallaudet Univ., George Washington Univ., George Mason Univ., Marymount Univ.) police forces. I thought I would ask each one about their respective policy on the 'close passing law for their respective state(and DC).

    So far:

    I have heard back from the Police Chief in my county who gave me a 'standard' answer.

    But when I talked with a Sgt. with the City of Fairfax, I not only had a terrific conversation with the officer. He is a cyclist himself and definitely supported having a helmetcam. Saying that would definitely help in getting a violator(of course that is presuming the cyclist gets' the license plate number). He did say one thing that bothered me. When they changed their computer system in 2006, that since then, they have not filed charges against driver involved in a collision with a cyclist.

    My curiosity stems from the reactions I have seen from officers' with city, county, and state police.

  2. #2
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    IMO this is a basically unenforceable law passed simply to pacify bicycle advocates. Like many laws passed thse days it's main intent is so the sponsor and supporters can tell interested votes, that they were concerned about their issues, and did something for them.

    Even with a helmet cam video, it'll be hard to prove a close pass, unless the helmet is aimed down and to the side.

    Of course, in the event of a broadside during a pass, the collision itself would prove that the pass was too close. But here again it just duplicated existing law about right of way and safe passing.

    We've had a 3' law in New York for 3 years, and to my knowledge there has been zero effort to publicize the law, which goes to show how serious the state is. These laws don't do us one bit of good via enforcement. They might via publicity, instructing motorists about how to pass safely.
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  3. #3
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    Around here, I just have three cities, one university, five county sheriffs and the state police departments in my normal riding zone. None of them will enforce our great/nonexistent passing law. (Great: "room to fall" on roads without a bike lane and with speeds of 35 mph or greater. Nonexistent: everywhere else.)

    There aren't may cyclists among those crews. The local city had a handful a few years back, but they would only do training rides together with clothing that clearly labeled them as Police. After one of them got killed (not on a bike), that seemed to take the wind out of their sails and I haven't seen them riding these past two years.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pibber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris516 View Post
    they have not filed charges against driver involved in a collision with a cyclist.

    not surprising. the driver that hit me wasn't charged. that was in arlington, the courthouse neighborhood.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    We've had a 3' law in New York for 3 years, and to my knowledge there has been zero effort to publicize the law, which goes to show how serious the state is. These laws don't do us one bit of good via enforcement. They might via publicity, instructing motorists about how to pass safely.
    § 1122-a. Overtaking a bicycle. The operator of a vehicle overtaking, from behind, a bicycle proceeding on the same side of a roadway shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof.

    Yeah, other than passing bicycles safely is in the New York State driver's manual, and other than New York, like Massachusetts, has a safe passing law, rather than a 3 foot law, these laws do no good at all when advocates can't even quote them correctly.

    -mr. bill

  6. #6
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    IMO this is a basically unenforceable law passed simply to pacify bicycle advocates. Like many laws passed thse days it's main intent is so the sponsor and supporters can tell interested votes, that they were concerned about their issues, and did something for them.

    Even with a helmet cam video, it'll be hard to prove a close pass, unless the helmet is aimed down and to the side.

    Of course, in the event of a broadside during a pass, the collision itself would prove that the pass was too close. But here again it just duplicated existing law about right of way and safe passing.

    We've had a 3' law in New York for 3 years, and to my knowledge there has been zero effort to publicize the law, which goes to show how serious the state is. These laws don't do us one bit of good via enforcement. They might via publicity, instructing motorists about how to pass safely.
    I use a rearward facing video camera, and I have videos of a couple of motorists that passed me within inches. In one video, one can see my tire tracks on the wet pavement, and it can be easily gauged on how close the vehicle was from me, in the other video, the bike lane stripe is clearly visible, with the motorist a foot over the line of a 5ft bike lane, with a curb on the other side. If our 3ft law was in effect, it would definitely have been enforceable upon being viewed by law enforcement.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    it would definitely have been enforceable upon being viewed by law enforcement.
    There's a big difference between what may be enforceable in theory, and what will actually be enforced. The video would be evidence if there's an accident, but I doubt you could get the police or DA interested in pursuing it if you brought it in to file a complaint on the violation alone.

    In any case, citing and fining handfuls of drivers doesn't do anything except put a few dollars into state coffers, and possibly have a few more drivers miffed at the "bicycle lobby" (doesn't matter what you do wrong, it's the fault of the guy that catches you). Even if the drivers learn a lesson and never pass close again, it's a drop in the bucket.

    IMO if the states are going to pass laws intended to change conduct -- ANY laws intended to change conduct -- it's a meaningless gesture unless they spend the dollars to make sure citizens know the new law.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
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    And enforce the new laws. Without the threat of credible penalty, there will not be widespread compliance.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    There's a big difference between what may be enforceable in theory, and what will actually be enforced. The video would be evidence if there's an accident, but I doubt you could get the police or DA interested in pursuing it if you brought it in to file a complaint on the violation alone.
    Seeing other cyclists on BF getting law enforcement to act by seeing a video of a close pass, and in the fact that my locale's high collision rate, hovering between number 1 and 2 out of nearly 100 cities of similar size in our state, gives me more than ample assurance that local law enforcement will not completely ignore our state's 3 foot law when it is enacted.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    Seeing other cyclists on BF getting law enforcement to act by seeing a video of a close pass, and in the fact that my locale's high collision rate, hovering between number 1 and 2 out of nearly 100 cities of similar size in our state, gives me more than ample assurance that local law enforcement will not completely ignore our state's 3 foot law when it is enacted.
    I'll go out on a limb and bet you 3 beers to one, that nothing changes significantly after the law is passed. I'll trust you as a man of honor to give me an accurate report when the time comes to settle the bet.
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  11. #11
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    I'll go out on a limb and bet you 3 beers to one, that nothing changes significantly after the law is passed. I'll trust you as a man of honor to give me an accurate report when the time comes to settle the bet.
    I let you know when the time comes and what the outcome is when I happen to make my next report. I have been averaging 1 to 2 close passing reports annually.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    I let you know when the time comes and what the outcome is when I happen to make my next report. I have been averaging 1 to 2 close passing reports annually.
    Just so there's no arguments later--- foreign or domestic?
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    “Never argue with an idiot. He will only bring you down to his level and beat you with experience.”, George Carlin

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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  13. #13
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    IMO this is a basically unenforceable law passed simply to pacify bicycle advocates. Like many laws passed thse days it's main intent is so the sponsor and supporters can tell interested votes, that they were concerned about their issues, and did something for them.

    Even with a helmet cam video, it'll be hard to prove a close pass, unless the helmet is aimed down and to the side.

    Of course, in the event of a broadside during a pass, the collision itself would prove that the pass was too close. But here again it just duplicated existing law about right of way and safe passing.

    We've had a 3' law in New York for 3 years, and to my knowledge there has been zero effort to publicize the law, which goes to show how serious the state is. These laws don't do us one bit of good via enforcement. They might via publicity, instructing motorists about how to pass safely.
    When I finally able to get a helmetcam from GoPro, I will also get their Chest Harness, so the camera will always be facing the road.
    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    Around here, I just have three cities, one university, five county sheriffs and the state police departments in my normal riding zone. None of them will enforce our great/nonexistent passing law. (Great: "room to fall" on roads without a bike lane and with speeds of 35 mph or greater. Nonexistent: everywhere else.)

    There aren't many cyclists among those crews. The local city had a handful a few years back, but they would only do training rides together with clothing that clearly labeled them as Police. After one of them got killed (not on a bike), that seemed to take the wind out of their sails and I haven't seen them riding these past two years.
    That is sad.

  14. #14
    Mister Bleak! mconlonx's Avatar
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    I reported a pass where passengers struck me with arms out a window as an assault.

    When cops caught up to the offender they admitted the hit, but said it was accidental. I accepted issuance of a 3' passing violation as a resolution instead of assault. If I'd been thinking more clearly when talking to the cop, I'd have pushed for a charge of hit and run. But I was just thrilled that they'd get hit with the 3' violation.

    Wouldn't have happened without them being stupid and admitting to the cop that they did in fact hit me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Bottom line: everyone here should listen to Mconlonx... he has it figured out and the rest of you, well, don't.
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  15. #15
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Chris: you forgot a few.

    Uniformed Secret Service;unless it involves a diplomat or VIP,they won't get involved.

    Capitol Police;around the Capitol and National Mall.

    Park Police;most parkways and many city parks(get mugged in 14th & K,don't call MPD).

    Metro Transit Police;anything involving Metro Buses(think MPD covers the Circulator) and bike theft at stations.

    Various Agency Police. Friend got left-hooked near Union Station,and some Treasury Police showed up. They were actually really helpful.

    You would think that with all the 'police' we have around here,people would drive better.

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  16. #16
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynaryder View Post
    Chris: you forgot a few.

    Uniformed Secret Service;unless it involves a diplomat or VIP,they won't get involved.

    Capitol Police;around the Capitol and National Mall.

    Park Police;most parkways and many city parks(get mugged in 14th & K,don't call MPD).

    Metro Transit Police;anything involving Metro Buses(think MPD covers the Circulator) and bike theft at stations.

    Various Agency Police. Friend got left-hooked near Union Station,and some Treasury Police showed up. They were actually really helpful.

    You would think that with all the 'police' we have around here,people would drive better.
    Yes, I did forget a bunch, lol.

  17. #17
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    PA has a 4' law and they did a fair job publicizing it (newspaper articles, TV news reports, etc.). I still get passed closer than 4' by roughly 80% of motorists, but I'd say only 1% are dangerously close (<2'), and only 0.1% are a true threat (<1').

    I have never heard of anyone receiving a ticket for it.

  18. #18
    Mister Bleak! mconlonx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
    I reported a pass where passengers struck me with arms out a window as an assault.

    When cops caught up to the offender they admitted the hit, but said it was accidental. I accepted issuance of a 3' passing violation as a resolution instead of assault. If I'd been thinking more clearly when talking to the cop, I'd have pushed for a charge of hit and run. But I was just thrilled that they'd get hit with the 3' violation.

    Wouldn't have happened without them being stupid and admitting to the cop that they did in fact hit me.
    The above was Berwick ME local police dept.

    I know ME has added a required segment dealing with cyclists in their driver's ed curriculum, so everyone who gets a license has at least had it taught to them.

    A cop to whom I reported some jackhole merging into my lane, getting way closer than 3' in Portsmouth NH had never heard of the 3' statute in his state, nor had his immediate supervisor.
    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Bottom line: everyone here should listen to Mconlonx... he has it figured out and the rest of you, well, don't.
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  19. #19
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Read the very bottom of this: http://azbikelaw.org/articles/ThreeFoot.html

    There have been a couple local MV-bike crashes in the last few years where the focus is now on if the cyclist was in bike lane or not when hit, since if they are not the 3ft law doesn't apply.

  20. #20
    Resident smartass. Fargo Wolf's Avatar
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    I'm not in the US, but Provincial/Territorial law generally requires that motorists pass cyclists at a minimum, 1m (3ft). However, drivers will give a lot more room if they can do so. Often a full lane in some cases.

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