Virginia three foot law

Virginia House Bill 1683 would increase the minimum bicycle passing distance from two feet to three feet.

Current law in Virginia already mandates that vehicles must give at least two feet of space when passing bicycles and other slow transportation modes. If approved and signed into law, HB 1683 will change that to three feet.

Other provisions in Virginia HB 1683:

  • Change tailgating law to apply to all vehicles, not just “motor vehicles.”
  • Change wording of passing distance law so that it applies only to motor vehicles — in other words, bicycles would be exempt from three foot passing clearance.

The state house transportation subcommittee apparently plans to consider this bill on Wednesday morning, and Virginia cycling advocates encourage you to contact committee members today. More at Bike Charlottesville.

13 Comments

  • MikeOnBike
    January 18, 2011 - 11:30 pm | Permalink

    “Change tailgating law to apply to all vehicles, not just “motor vehicles.””

    Wouldn’t that outlaw pacelines and drafting?

  • January 19, 2011 - 12:01 am | Permalink

    What I meant was that the tailgate-ee (i.e. the vehicle being followed) is currently only motor vehicles. Here’s how the law reads now:

    The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another motor vehicle…

    The proposed change:

    The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle…

  • MikeOnBike
    January 19, 2011 - 1:03 am | Permalink

    Ok, that makes more sense. That’s consistent with http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21703.htm . Then again, I can’t recall a whole lot of motorists following my bike too closely.

    Meanwhile, I’d prefer that cyclists pass other cyclists (and pedestrians) with more than a few inches of clearance, with exceptions for members of pacelines.

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  • Joe Mizereck
    January 19, 2011 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Bravo Virginia. I commend Del. Toscano for carrying the House bill and Sen. McDougle carrying the Senate bill focused on securing at least 3 feet of protected space for bicyclists when being overtaken by a motorist. Sixteen states and many cities have seen the wisdom and value of having such a law on the books. The value of this law isn’t found in giving motorists tickets, but rather, using the law as a tool to help educate motorists on what is considered a minimum safe passing distance—at least 3 feet please.

    There will be naysayers will say the law is only a “feel good” law and unenforceable. I say hogwash. Energetic law enforcement agencies who understand their mission to protect and serve the members of their communities waste no time in rolling up their sleeves and finding ways to do their job. And some of the best do it without issuing one single ticket—pure education. But again, remember, it isn’t about issuing tickets.

    So much of the noise surrounding cycling safety issues are focused on the actions of the few motorists and cyclists who just don’t get it. Most motorists and cyclists, thank God, are very respectful and responsible. But there are those few who don’t care about their own safety let alone others’ safety. We argue endlessly about the actions of these few scofflaws on both sides. And while we argue people are getting hurt and killed. Moms and dads and brothers and sisters and just good people are losing their lives because we cannot get it right. We cannot focus our attention on taking reasonable steps to provide “clear standards for behavior and ultimately safer roads for drivers, runners, cyclists, pedestrians and all others.” We have to push aside all the meaningless noise, roll up our sleeves and do whatever we can to give vulnerable road users greater protection in our car centric society. And at the same time we need to let vulnerable road users know that they have rules to follow as well…and they too will be held accountable. Authorities must address the violation of the laws by all road users.

    Indeed, changing motorist behavior will save lives, but it is also important to understand that changing cyclist behavior is where we can make the greatest impact on cyclist safety because cyclists, not motorists have a very strong personal interest in modifying their behavior to be visible and predicable…the keys to safe cycling. Bottom line, cyclists can solve a majority of their own problems by riding visibly and predictably.

    It is critical for all Virginia cyclists to get on the same page and help your legislative leadership understand what you expect them to do to help make your roads safer. I assure you, if we can get motorists to give cyclists at least 3 feet clearance when passing and do this by using the law as an educational tool, that will be something we can all feel good about.

    The question is really very simple: will a 3 foot law save Virginia cyclists’ lives? The answer is, YES. So, you know what to do Virginia…make it happen, please. Lives are at stake.

    I will do whatever I can to help.

    Joe Mizereck
    Founder, The “3 Feet Please” Campaign

  • January 19, 2011 - 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Instead of ‘3 Feet’, why not “changes lanes to pass”? Easier to follow and easier to enforce.

  • MikeOnBike
    January 19, 2011 - 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, why define safe passing with fractions of a lane width? Changing lanes is much easier to understand and do than trying to judge the number of feet between a car’s right mirror and a bike’s left handgrip, from the left seat of the car.

  • MikeOnBike
    January 19, 2011 - 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, why define safe passing with fractions of a lane width? Changing lanes is much easier to understand and do than trying to judge the number of feet between a car’s right mirror and a bike’s left handgrip, from the left seat of the car.

  • Allenmuchnick
    January 25, 2011 - 12:05 am | Permalink

    You can follow this legislation on the Virginia Bicycling Federation website [ http://www.vabike.org ] .

    Until the two House Bills (HB 1683 and 2194) are voted upon in the subcommittee this Wednesday morning, Virginia bicyclists can ask their state delegate and senator to co-patron the House and Senate (SB 924) bills. As of last Wednesday, HB 1683 already had 17 House co-patrons. You can identify and contact your Virginia legislators with this web tool at [ http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform ] .

  • February 3, 2011 - 12:31 am | Permalink

    The more feet the better…BUT…sometimes bikers put themselves in hazardous situations. It works both ways.

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  • January 16, 2012 - 1:08 am | Permalink

    This is my first time reading this blog. Definitely won’t be my last though, really enjoyed it.

  • VirginiaIsForDriversOnly
    May 22, 2013 - 9:45 am | Permalink

    It got shot down. VA politics is ridiculous. The anti-dooring bill got dropped too, not enough of them showed up to vote for it.

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