According to a Pantagraph article, Florida is the latest state to pass a 3-foot law, whereby
vehicles are required to give cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing. Violators face fines up to $500.
Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, stressed the new law merely spells out what earlier traffic laws referred to as a “safe distance” between “vehicles.” Previous state law defined bikes as vehicles and gave them the same rights and responsibilities as cars, trucks and other traffic.
“We aren’t hearing many naysayers about the 3-feet rule,” Barsotti said. “Most people understand that it’s common sense. I realize enforcement will be difficult. …Should there be a collision where a motorist hits a cyclist, there’ll now be something they can be charged with. …But, the big impact is in education. Now, in drivers’ education classes and the Rules of the Road (brochure), we can talk about not squeezing by cyclists. When you see a cyclist, give them 3 feet.”
This follows on the heels of an even stricter law passed recently in Chicago
In March, Chicago aldermen passed an ordinance mirroring the state law mandating at least 3 feet of clearance, but they went further. They disallowed making left or right turns in front of bicyclists, opening a vehicle door into the path of bicyclists (a type of crash called “dooring”), and double parking in marked shared vehicle/bike lanes.
Fines for driving, standing or parking in a bicycle lane also were increased: Each violation carries a minimum $150 fine, increasing to $500 if the violation results in a bicycle crash.
Perhaps the cyclists in Rhode Island should unite and start asking our representatives to enact such a law. While it’s unlikely the law would ever be enforced, it goes a long ways towards protecting cyclists should there be an accident. I totally agree with Mr. Barsotti that one of the big benefits is that the law will now be taught in driver education classes, forcing at least some amount of bicycle education upon motorists.