Michigan Legislature approves 3-foot distance to pass bikes on the road

Drivers face tickets for violations

By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press

Photo: US Air Force

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan drivers would have to allow 3 feet of clearance or a “safe distance” while passing a bicyclist on the road under bills that won final legislative approval Tuesday and that are expected to be signed into law.

The state Senate also passed a measure that would require teen drivers to learn about laws pertaining to cyclists and other vulnerable roadway users for one hour as part of their initial driver education course.

Michigan is among 11 states with no “safe passing” law.

The 3-foot distance requirement would be in line with many other states. Motorists in violation could face a traffic ticket.

Here's what it means:

Under the bills, motorists would have to pass at least 3 feet to the right or left of a bike or, if it is impracticable to do so, pass at a safe distance at a safe speed.

Drivers could pass a cyclist in a no-passing zone if it is safe to do so.

The League of Michigan Bicyclists, which pushed for a 5-foot distance, has called the 3-foot requirement a “difficult but tolerable concession.” It has expressed concern, though, with the exception allowing for passing at a closer distance if 3 feet if “impracticable” — calling it confusing and a complication in educating motorists when the new measures are enacted by Gov. Rick Snyder. Nonetheless, the advocacy group has called the legislation “an important step forward.”

The bike-safety package does not include bills to target distracted driving. Legislation that has not moved in the House or Senate would impose tough new penalties for distracted motorists who cause serious injury or death while using a mobile device and update a ban against texting while driving to also include using a computer, tablet device, camera or other internet-based communication device.

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