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BREAKING NEWS: Sen. passes 5-foot passing distance bicycle bills

October 21, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

MI bicycle safety legislation also requires drivers’ education curriculum to include emphasis on bicycle laws and awareness


On October 20, 2016, the Michigan Senate by a nearly unanimous vote approved a package of bicycle safety bills that will, among other things, require motorists to allow at least a 5-foot “safe distance” when passing bicyclists on the roadway.

This is terrific news. These bills – Senate Bill 1076 (34 yeas to 2 nays), Senate Bill 1077 (34-2) and SB 1078 (36-0) make tons of sense and, unfortunately, they’re long overdue. As I said in my recent blog post about the bills:

“We’ve seen far too many tragedies and, since some drivers persist in refusing to exercise basic common-sense when it comes to sharing the road with bicyclists, it’s time for the law to provide more protection.”

Now, the bills go to the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration.

Bicycle safety legislation passed by Senate

Below are the highlights of the changes to Michigan’s bike safety laws that were passed by the Senate:

  • Senate Bill 1076: “The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle shall, when [conditions exist under which “the driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle …”], pass at a safe distance of at least 5 feet to the right of that bicycle.” (Modifying MCL 257.637)
  • Senate Bill 1077: “The driver of a motor 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. … [I]f it is safe to do so, the driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may overtake and pass the bicycle in a no-passing zone.”
  • Senate Bill 1078: The classroom instruction portion of the “segment 1 curriculum” for drivers education “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.”

No penalties for killing or injuring a bicyclist

Sadly, unlike the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate did not take action on the two bills – Senate Bills 1029 and 1030 – that would impose criminal liability and possible jail time and fines on motorists who commit “a moving violation” that results in a bicyclist’s “injury” (misdemeanor, up to 1-year imprisonment and up to a $1,000 fine) or “death” (felony, up to 15-years imprisonment and a fine up $7,500).

Here’s more information about the bills as well as the bicycle laws in other U.S. states.

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