A bill introduced by Rep. Jamie Pedersen would require drivers to give cyclists space when passing. The bill also outlines required cyclist behavior, such as riding as far to the right as possible (or left if in the left lane of a one-way) and using bike facilities if deemed safe by the cyclist.
Pedersen, a bike commuter himself, tried for the bill last year, but it got held up in the senate. He said there was concern that last year’s bill did not outline cyclist behavior, so the new version includes language intended do just that.
Publicola reports the new rules for riding behavior:
“Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the legal and normal flow of traffic … shall, when traffic is present, ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is judged reasonably safe by the bicyclist.” Later on, the bill defines “safe” as “a reasonable space of pavement on either side of the bicyclist, a position so as to be seen and safe from opening vehicle doors and to avoid being passed at less than a safe distance, and a surface that is free from hazards, pavement defects, and objects or materials, whether fixed or moveable, that may obstruct travel, cause a collision or fall, or damage the bicycle.”The bill also would require cyclists to use bike lanes or shoulders when they deem them safe, and to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on sidewalks; and it lays out specific rules for cycling when a car is trying to pass on the left or the right (on one-way streets).
The bill would make it illegal to pass a cyclist within three feet while traveling less than 35 mph and five feet if traveling faster than 35.
A safe passing bill is absolutely vital. It’s actually crazy that it does not already exist. Driving a deadly vehicle closer than three feet from someone’s body is clearly wrong, and a law will help spread awareness about giving people space and will give bike riders more lawful footing when they are harassed by aggressive drivers.
I am a tiny bit concerned about the requirement to ride in bike lanes unless they are deemed unsafe. This city simply has too many bike lanes that are dangerous for faster travel. They may be good for people who do not ride quickly, but fast riders may need to take the general travel lane in order to ride safely (examples: downhill on 2nd downtown or downhill on Roosevelt in the U District). However, it is important to note that safe road positioning is explicitly left up to the rider’s discretion. I just hope it doesn’t stir up any more animosity towards those riders who choose not to ride in the lanes due to safety concerns (which they should still be able to do under the new law).
This bill has no price tag attached to it, which could help it get through during this budget-crunched session. I urge any senate members who want to score brownie points with the two-wheeled (or, you know, encourage road safety) to take this bill seriously. I can’t think of a single argument against it. There is no reason why a driver should ever have a legitimate reason to pass someone on a bike within three/five feet. Any driver who does so is driving recklessly and endangering lives.
As a side note, the headline for the P.I.’s post about this bill starts with “Cars versus bikes.” This is a ridiculous way to start a story about a bill that actually aims to decrease conflicts between people using each mode of transportation. It’s also silly to go ahead and assume there will be some sort of conflict over the bill, since there is really nothing here that I can see a safe car driver objecting to. I want to urge Seattle media to avoid using the “cars vs bikes” meme every time a story happens to include bicycles. When you cover the much-awaited Thunderdome match-up between a Cannondale and a rusty 80s Toyota, then feel free to say “cars vs bikes.”