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Drivers must give Michigan bicyclists 3-foot safe distance by law

Breaking: New laws just passed require drivers to give bikes 3-foot safe distance when passing on left and right; bike safety and safe distance to be part of new driver training

When passing bicyclists on left or right, motorists must allow a 3-foot safe distance.

Three new laws recently passed now require motorists to allow a safe distance when passing bicyclists and mandate that bike safety be a part of the new driver education curriculum.

This is a significant safety victory for the bicycle community in Michigan, which for too long has seen too many bicyclists hit and seriously injured by aggressive drivers who do not keep a safe distance when passing bikes.

Not only do I fully support these measures, but as an accident and injury attorney and safety advocate, I’ve been calling for their enactment for a long time on the pages of this auto law blog.

Specifically, these new laws in Michigan on bike safety and safe distance accomplish the following:

  • House Bill 4185 – Motorists passing bicyclists on the left must allow a 3-foot safe distance between them and the bike.
  • House Bill 4265 – When permitted by existing law to pass on the right, motorists must give bicyclists a 3-foot safe distance.
  • House Bill 4198 – The driver education curriculum in Michigan must include instruction on “the laws pertaining to bicycles” and the “laws of this state pertaining to awareness of bicycles …”

These new laws are excellent bike safety measures because they are specifically tailored to address a specific danger that exists for bicyclists.

This is best explained in the House Fiscal Agency’s March 20, 2018, “Legislative Analysis” of House Bill 4265:

“According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP), Michigan bicycle fatalities doubled from 2012 to 2016, increasing from 19 deaths to 38. An OHSP analysis of crash data from 2010 to 2014 suggested that about one fourth of accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles occur during overtaking and passing. (These data include crashes when a vehicle is overtaking a bicycle, as well as vice versa.) In addition, bicyclists are reportedly being routinely “buzzed”—passed from behind at an unsafe distance or unsafe speed—by impatient, aggressive, or oblivious drivers.”

The 3-foot safe distance rule for passing bicyclists on the left

House Bill 4185 provides that:

“The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance of at least 3 feet to the left of that bicycle or, if it is impracticable to pass the bicycle at a distance of 3 feet to the left, at a safe distance to the left of that bicycle at a safe speed, 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.”

HB 4185 was approved by Governor Rick Snyder on June 28, 2018 and is now known as Public Act 279 of 2018. It takes effect 90 days from its date of enactment.

The 3-foot safe distance rule for passing bicyclists on the right

House Bill 4265 provides that:

“The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall [only in the limited circumstances when passing on the right is permitted under MCL 257.637(1) and (2) – which is not affected by House Bill 4265] pass at a distance of 3 feet to the right of that bicycle or, if it is impracticable to pass the bicycle at a distance of 3 feet to the right, at a safe distance to the right of that bicycle at a safe speed.”

HB 4265 was approved by Governor Rick Snyder on June 28, 2018 and is now known as Public Act 280 of 2018. It takes effect on August 1, 2019.

Teaching future drivers about the safe distance for passing bicyclists

House Bill 4198 requires that the classroom instruction portion of Michigan’s driver education curriculum include:

“[N]ot less than 1 hour of information concerning the laws pertaining to bicycles, motorcycles, and other vulnerable roadway users, including pedestrians, 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, motorcycles, and other vulnerable roadway users, including pedestrians, shall also be incorporated into other subject areas of the curriculum where appropriate.”

HB 4198 was approved by Governor Rick Snyder on June 27, 2018 and is now known as Public Act 277 of 2018. It takes effect 90 days from its date of enactment.

This entry was tagged Tags: bicycle safety
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