As President of the New York Bicycling Coalition, I am urging New York State residents to get involved to help save the lives of bicyclists by urging their state legislators to pass a three-foot safe passing law. The unenforceable law on the books now in New York State defines the passing distance only as a “safe distance,” which police say is difficult to enforce.
A horrific car/bike crash last weekend in Angier, N.C., is sadly the latest evidence that all states need the three-foot passing law.
What makes it even more sad for me personally is because one of the injured riders, Mike Dayton, is a friend of mine who I know through my work with BikeLaw.com. Mike is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. More importantly, he is one of the safest and most experienced riders I have ever met. Despite that fact, as discussed in detail below, Mike is laying in a NC ICU right now with a bad head injury because he was mowed down from behind while riding in a line of four single-file riders. Trust me, if this could happen to Mike, this could happen to any of us who enjoy riding our bikes.
Like New York, North Carolina is another state behind the times without a defined passing distance law. If the driver in Mike’s case would have just given these riders 3′ of passing distance, Mike would be happy at work rather than in the ICU…….
Long story short, 4 experienced bike riders who were riding single-file were mowed down from behind by a passing car. The driver, Donnie Marie Williams, told a TV station that when she saw the bicyclists, there was no room to move over because a vehicle was coming in the other direction. “It happened so quick,” she said.
Apparently, it never occurred to this driver that she could have avoided this tragedy had she simply slowed down and waited for the on-coming car to pass. If NC had a 3′ passing law, and had this driver learned that she MUST ALWAYS permit at least 3′ of passing distance, this crash would have never occurred.
I know that simply changing the law won’t prevent all future bike crashes but I also know from what I have seen over the years with seatbelt use, DWI penalties, etc., a change in the law CAN dramatically change motorist behavior.
Passing a 3′ law is an important first step in changing motorist behavior when passing people who ride bikes. If you agree, please take 2 minutes to email your legislator by using this easy-to-use form.
Thanks for reading — and please remember to contact your state legislators in New York!