• Sun April 19 2009
  • Posted Apr 19, 2009
A collection of blog entries regarding proposed "three foot laws" from around the country. What is three feet? It's 36 inches. Or a little less than a meter. Or a little more than an arm's length. If State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) has his way, it will also be the minimum distance motorists must leave when they pass a bicyclist on a New Jersey road. Oroho proposed legislation last month that would make it illegal for drivers to leave less than a three-foot buffer when they overtake a biker riding on the side of the road. The idea isn't new. New Jersey is one of more than a dozen states that is either considering or has already enacted a similar three-foot bike buffer law. Is it the right thing to do? Biking blogs around the nation are divided. Some bikers say the three-foot rules are long overdue and force motorists to give bikers their space on increasingly congested streets. But other bloggers say the three-foot laws are unenforcable pieces of useless legislation that overshadow the real problem-- bikers and drivers will never peacefully co-exist until both sides show each other some respect on the road. From BikinginLA: It's just common sense. Just about anyone who has ever ridden a bike knows how dangerous it can be when a car passes too close. And just about anyone who has ever driven past a cyclist knows that it's hard to judge just exactly how close is too close-- and that riders often swerve to avoid obstacles a driver may not be aware of. A three foot-- or arm's length-- distance simply provides a reasonable margin of error to protect everyone's safety. It makes so much sense, in fact, that it is slowly becoming law across the nation. As of last year, 11 states had passed three-foot laws, while a number of states have either passed or are considering such laws this year. From Jen Benepe, blogging at Benepe's Bike Blog: The reality of a three-foot measure is simply this: It's not enough. Already motorists are driving on top of the white line when they are supposed to be several feet away from it; driving 50 mph in 40 mph zones, and in general, disobeying the law. Three feet is barely the width of a cyclist's profile. And the way that people measure from their car seat looking over to a person on the right hand side, certainly has at least a three-foot capacity for error. This is an insult to the people who have been killed by cars who did not pass safely. At least one of them hit the rider Bent Rasmussen (of Sparta) with a large mirror. The driver surely did not take the size of the massive mirror into account when passing Rasmussen, and no doubt other drivers with big mirrors will do the same with this inadequate bill. From Mark Dieterich, commenting at Bike Providence: I don't think there is any way this law could be enforced . . . The big question in my mind is what does the cycling community want from such a law? What is it we are really after? Would our lives suddenly be much safer if all motorists kept three feet when they passed us? I think what we really want is recognition that cycling is a valid form of transportation and that we should be respected when on the road. These are really societal changes and require a change in thinking the part of motorists and cyclists. Motorists need to come to a realization that cyclists have every right to be on the road. Yes, cyclists will be in your way at times, but that doesn't give you the right to endanger their lives. They must be respected and given room to navigate to wherever they are going. Cyclists need to realize that they are not above the laws. Flying through stop signs and stop lights just isn't legal. We are required to yield to pedestrians at all times and must wait our turn at stops, just like cars do. From Keri, blogging at Orlando Bike Commuter Blog: The three-foot law has become a distraction from solving core problems. Now, every time there is a discussion about harassment problems or cycling safety, someone talks about publicizing the three-foot law. Awareness of that law isn't going to solve either of those problems! First of all, we need to attack intimidation and aggressive driving for what it is-- assault and reckless endangerment. Passing clearance is the least of the issue with abusive behavior. Second, no matter how much you publicize that law, it is not going to make up for bad lane position. If cyclists ride so far right that motorists can squeeze through, they will . . . If we truly want cyclists to be safe, we have to educate them (and the public) about how cyclists protect themselves. We need to remove the stigma of being slow in a fast world. We need to enforce the laws that protect all road users--speed limits, following distance and safe passing. We need to make hostility and aggressiveness socially unacceptable, with some legal teeth. There are so many bigger problems we aren't finding solutions for when we waste energy trying to make people aware of an inadequate and unenforceable law. From Corrie, blogging at In the Spin: Will it make the roads any safer tomorrow than today? . . . Motorists will continue to pass and cyclists will continue to be buzzed. So are we for it or not? Of course we are. Sure, legal penalities applied after we are killed by a buzzing car won't bring us back to life. But more code that supports the principal that bicycles belong reinforces the share-the-road mentality we all need to develop-- even cyclists.

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