Why Did We Do This?
Michigan bicyclists face significant risks from motorists passing too closely, even when riding "far to the right" as stated in state law (Michigan Vehicle Code Section 257.660a
• The most common type (55 percent
) [PDF page 139/Report page 111] of bicycle/auto crashes is when a bicyclist was “going straight ahead” prior to a crash.
• Large vehicles produce strong air currents and can knock cyclists off course if they pass too closely. This is especially dangerous given the bad conditions of our area’s roads.
• Many motorists are unaware of the dangers posed by their actions. Others intentionally pass closely to intimidate bicyclists.
Didn't State Law Cover This Already?
The language is very unclear. Section 257.636
of the Michigan Vehicle Code
“The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left
of that vehicle, and when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.”
The old “safe distance” language was left to the perspective of the motorist. It was also open to interpretation for law enforcement (and therefore difficult to put into effect). The "safe distance” language did not provide a clearly defined standard for patrol officers to use.
Moreover, a bicycle is not defined as a “vehicle” in Michigan law. A bicyclist has “all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle
.” Therefore, it was open to interpretation if bicyclists are protected under the old law.
Michigan was one of eleven states
that have no specific law regarding passing a bicyclist.
Should Bicycles Be On The Road At All?
Bicycles and other types of vehicles can be on the road, says Section 257.657
of the Michigan Vehicle Code
“Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle or commercial quadricycle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle under this chapter, except for special regulations in this article and except for the provisions of this chapter that by their nature do not apply.”
What Will the Three-Foot Passing Laws Do?
• HB 4265 and 4185 requires a motorist attempting to overtake a bicyclist traveling in the same direction give at least three feet to the left of the bicyclist as they pass until they have safely passed the bicyclist. If three feet is impracticable, the motorist must pass at a safe distance to the left of the bicyclist at a safe speed. The motorist may drive to the left of the center of the highway to pass a bicyclist if it is safe to do so, regardless of if the vehicle is in a no-passing zone. Thus,
• Provide clear guidance to motorists, bicyclists and law enforcement, thus reducing confusion and frustration
• Help reduce bicyclist injuries and deaths
• Promote a mutual respect for motorists and cyclists on streets and roads
• Would allow motorists to cross a center line, including a double yellow line, to safely pass a bicyclist.