Amending Arizona’s 3 Foot Passing Law

Arizona’s safe passing law — ARS 28-735 — has the usual text that a motorist “shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.”

ARS 28-735 infamously contains a get out of jail free card: if the cyclist is hit in the street when a bike lane or path is present, there’s absolutely no penalty for the driver. According to AZ Bike Law, this “Section C” of ARS-28-735 has caused confusion, leading some people (including those in law enforcement) to claim the 3-foot passing minimum does not apply to overtaking bicyclists traveling in a bike lane.

While state bike advocates would like to eliminate this “Section C” altogether, Arizona State Senator John McComish (R) has introduced SB 1300 to weaken the bike lane exclusion by adding exceptions.

Right now, it’s legally okay to injure or kill a cyclist who doesn’t ride in the provided bike lane. McComish’s bill would penalize those motorists who hit a cyclist out of the bike lane if “the person driving the motor vehicle is driving in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.” In other words, you’re not allowed to hit the cyclist on purpose or drive like a maniac when you kill the guy on the bike.

SB 1300 also lists valid reasons for cyclists to leave the bike lane: when he’s passing another cyclist or to make a left turn. It’s a nice start, but missing are other common exceptions for bike lane use such as door zone hazards; debris in the bike lanes such as parked vehicles, garbage bins, joggers, dogs, dead raccoons; hazards like potholes; and even positioning yourself to be seen at intersections.

Representatives Bob Robson (R) and Jeff Dial (R) have introduced this bill in the Arizona House.

In other news, Arizona State Representative Justin Olson (R) has introduced an anti-harassment bill. Tucson Velo talks about it here.

Postscript: It fascinates me that cycling doesn’t seem to be the partisan issue in Arizona that it is in some other states, such as Washington state for example.

4 Comments

  • March 4, 2013 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Hi Richard,
    Yes, count me as one who would prefer that Section C was simply eliminated.
    However, I’m afraid you are repeating what the confused people say about the law, when you say ” there‚Äôs absolutely no penalty for the driver”. That is absolutely not the case. A driver is still in violation of 28-735; and is would simply not liable for the (small) additional fine that section B levies.
    28-735 is in *all* cases just another civil traffic infraction, sections B and C don’t change that.
    p.s. As far as i can tell the bill is dead (as is the harassment bill) for this session, neither made it past the first hurdle. (leadership declined to assign either to any committee).
    Links to (now dead) harassment bill — it was worded rather strangely so it’s probably ok it’s dead:
    http://azbikelaw.org/blog/bill-makes-harassing-a-ped-or-cyclist-illegal/

  • March 4, 2013 - 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the clarification, Ed. Those bills died a quick death – wow! I’m a little surprised especially that a bill introduced by the Senate Majority Leader would get quashed so quickly.

  • March 4, 2013 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

    without commenting on the relative merits; i think it’s just part of the normal legislative attrition process, an AZ republic story explains: “There are no limits to how many bills lawmakers can introduce, or ‘drop,’ and no restrictions on what bills they choose to introduce. The weeding-out process comes when the Republican leadership chooses which bills are assigned to committee…” http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20130220arizona-legislature-scrap-heap-dead-bills-piling-up.html?nclick_check=1

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