The RI House passed, what can now best be called an “Unsafe Passing Bill”, this past Saturday. You can read the entire bill (pdf format) online. Apparently, the bill was ammended on the floor of the House before passage, but, as of yet, we have been unable to determine what exactly these changes were.
In general, the bill introduces a fine should a driver of a motor vehicle fail to pass a cyclist without a safe distance, where safe is defined to be:
a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic
Of interest though is one particular exception whereby this safe distance rule does not apply:
At a speed not greater than thirty-five miles per hour (35 mph);
Apparently, it’s okay to buzz or even hit a cyclist if you are driving under 35mph.
Now that the House bill has been passed, the status is listed as being forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Since the Senate is in recess, it’s unclear what this means. While it’s still possible to have the Senate act on a bill, even during recess, I believe it is unlikely that this bill will currently become law.