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We'd like three feet, please. Enshrined in law.
Georgia's cyclists may soon feel more wind at their backs as drivers give a safer passing distance. This week a bill was introduced in the House that would define the minimum safe passing distance as three feet. We don't expect this bill, if/when it passes, to be a panacea, but we do think it will facilitate enforcement by making the law less subjective ("safe" means different things to different people) and help drivers better understand how to interact with cyclists they pass on the street. Georgia would join 16 other US states that have already defined safe passing minimums of three feet or greater (laws are under consideration in seven additional states).
While overall biking is a pretty safe activity, we do hear about folks who get buzzed and knocked off their bikes, scared, or much worse, seriously injured or killed. Despite what many Georgia cyclists believe, state law makes no specific statements about how cars should pass bicycles. The portion of the code that refers to passing (40-6-42) says only
(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle;
...noting of course that bicycles are vehicles under the law. 16 other states have laws that apply a 3 foot safe passing distance for cars passing bicycles, which works as an educational tool for drivers and a standard for enforcement (how close is too close? "I didn't hit him -- he just fell down after I passed").
Based on Georgia numbers from 2004-2006, more than half (55%) of recorded deaths from car vs bicycle crashes occurred when the car and bicycle were traveling in the same direction -- speeds tend to be higher and injuries more severe, highlighting the need for education and enforcement of a safe passing distance.
Georgia is now one of 7 additional states with a proposed 3 foot passing law: HB 988 was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives by Wendell Willard of Roswell, and we need you to contact your State Representative to make sure it becomes law!
--> Read a fact sheet here - assembled by advocates statewide as part of the new Georgia Bikes Alliance, sister organization to Georgia Bikes!, and this file includes the relevant details that spell out the need for this legislation.
--> Follow this link to find your State Representative. Two clicks later (click the name and then contact website), you should be able to find an email for your representative. Personal contacts of any kind (email, phone call, letter) are far superior to form letters, which is why we are relying on you to take the initiative to reach out.
--> Contact your legislator and ask them to cosponsor HB 988.
Note on enforcement: In 2008 ABC partnered with the Woodstock police on a campaign to education drivers on sharing the road with cyclists. If we'd had this tool it would have made the jobs of law enforcement much easier. Read more here http://bit.ly/enforce.