Save a Life: 3′

During the month of April I am staying with an active family during my remodel. This cycling family usually mountain bikes or racks up serious miles on a road bikes (triathletes, sheesh!) instead of my more purposeful trips. This weekend, while we did a mix of all kinds of rides on all kinds of bikes, I learned something: drivers slow down and pass me wider than they do other cyclists.

I don’t know if it because of my gender, because my trike is more visible, or because drivers think I am disabled; but the adult male cyclist in my group this weekend commented on how much safer it is to ride in front of me because the cars slow down and move over. Maybe that is why I take some heavily trafficked roads that he avoids (or dreads). I’m not complaining about the extra consideration, but think I should advocate on behalf of the non-female, non-trike cyclists on the road…

When you see a runner or cyclist on the shoulder or right side of the road, do you know the proper passing etiquette?  You should slow down and pass them with a safe distance. The definition of slow is less than 35 MPH and the definition of safe distance is over 3 feet (or one meter). In Tennessee, like most states, a minimum of 3′ is the law:

TCA 55-8-175 – Riding on Roadways and Bike Paths –  (c)  (1) This subsection (c) shall be known and may be cited as the “Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007.”    (2) The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3′) and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. (d) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor. 

What can you do?

  1. car passing cyclistSlow down and give travelers with less than four wheels (cyclists and runners) a nice wide safe margin when you pass them.
  2. Raise motorists’ awareness for the 3′ law. This site sells gear to raise awareness while biking, but you can post to social media and reach your network anytime. Frankly, some rednecks and idiots think it is funny to buzz past bikes. Let them know it doesn’t make them funny: it makes them assholes.
  3. If you happen to by this guy in London, you can use your GoPro to have the law enforced. You can find out the law in your state at this site.

yellow bumper sticker it's safer it's courteous it's the law

In Chattanooga, police officers on bicycles track the distance a motorist passes them using some relatively high-tech methods. I’m not sure it keeps all motorists safe, but the news coverage on the system may have made motorists generally more aware of the 3′ law.

In short, give bicyclists and pedestrians a safe margin of at least three feet when you pass them: it is the law!

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