Injured? Free Advice (800) 777-0028

Should motorists have to allow a 5-foot ‘safe distance’ when passing bicyclists?

Senate Bill 123 proposes measure to prevent bike accidents with cars by protecting bikers from passing cars and trucks; Senate Bill 124 proposes better drivers ed and classroom instruction on ‘laws pertaining to bicycles’

Last October, during the 2015-16 legislative session, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bike safety bills, Senate Bills 1077 and 1078, which proposed requiring:

  • Motorists to allow a 5-foot “safe distance” when passing bicyclists on the left; and,
  • Drivers education courses to include at least “1 hour of information concerning the laws pertaining to bicycles [including, but not limited to, “laws pertaining to yielding the right-of-way, traveling at a safe and reasonable speed for conditions, ensuring a safe distance, and distracted driving”]” and emphasizing “awareness of their operation on the streets, roads, and highways of this state.”

Unfortunately, the bills weren’t taken up by the House and they “died” on December 31, 2016 – at the close of the legislative session – due to inaction.  That’s unfortunate, because these bills would protect a lot of people who ride bikes from being hit by passing cars.

But, now, the proposals – and the bicyclists whose lives and well-being would be protected by them – may have a second chance.

Bicycle safety measures – especially the 5-foot “safe distance” passing requirement for motorists – are back in the Michigan Senate.

And as an attorney who regularly helps bicyclists who have been seriously injured by cars or trucks, I welcome this news.  All of our Michigan Auto Law attorneys support legislation and hope the legislature will act quickly to pass these prudent and overdue safety proposals.

Preventing bike-car accidents with the 5-foot safe distance rule

The bicycle-motor vehicle accident statistics illustrate the urgency the of the 5-foot “safe distance” rule:  the second highest cause of bike injury accidents involve motorists who are clipped by passing cars and trucks.

On February 9, 2017, Sen. David Knezek (D–Dearborn Heights) and Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) introduced Senate Bills 123 and 124, which propose the exact same bike safety measures as were proposed last term in SB 1077 and 1078:

  • “The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance of at least 5 feet to the left of that bicycle …” (SB 123)
  • Drivers education courses “shall include not less than 1 hour of information concerning the laws pertaining to bicycles … and [emphasizing] awareness of their operation on the streets, roads, and highways of this state.” (SB 124)

The identical language of the proposals in both SB 1077 and 1078 and SB 123 and 124 is understandable: The bills’ sponsors in both instances were Sen. Knezek and Sen. O’Brien.

Requiring motorists to give bike riders a 5-foot ‘safe distance’ is a good idea

Under Senate Bill 123, for which Sen. Knezek is the primary sponsor and Sen. O’Brien is a co-sponsor, the law would be changed to require:

  • “The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance of at least 5 feet to the left of that bicycle, and when safely clear of the overtaken bicycle shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable. … If it is safe to do so, the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may overtake and pass the bicycle in a no-passing zone.”

Notably, an identical proposal has been introduced in the House of Representatives, House Bill 4185.

Teaching drivers’ education students about ‘laws pertaining to bicycles’

Under Senate Bill 124, for which Sen. O’Brien is the primary sponsor and Sen. Knezek is a co-sponsor, the law would be changed to require:

  • “[C]lassroom instruction” in the “segment 1 curriculum” of a “drivers education course” “shall include not less than 1 hour of information concerning the laws pertaining to bicycles … and shall emphasize awareness of their operation on the streets, roads, and highways of this state. The laws of this state pertaining to awareness of bicycles … shall also be incorporated into additional curriculum, which shall include, but is not limited to, laws pertaining to yielding the right-of-way, traveling at a safe and reasonable speed for conditions, ensuring a safe distance, and distracted driving.”
This entry was tagged
Community Guidelines
comments powered by Disqus
Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
Read Our Reviews
Free Consultation
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.