3 Feet to Pass, Please!
As of July 1st, Virginia law states that a motorist “shall pass at a reasonable speed at least three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle.” We added the emphasis, as the previous law required drivers to pass people on bikes by only two feet. Virginia joins 23 other states and the District of Columbia in having a three foot passing law. Pennsylvania sets the minimum to pass as four feet!
Arlington road users already know that the best way to share the road is by being a PAL– Predictable, Alert and Lawful. Slowing down and giving enough space to vulnerable road users just makes sense. But it’s always nice to see commonsense in print!
The Virginia Biking Federation issued a press release about the new law, which you can read here. As well, they are teaming up with organizations like the DMV, VDOT and the Virginia State Police to educate drivers about the new law.
UPDATE: We’ve got more information on this page, too! : https://www.bikearlington.com/pages/pal-safety-on-our-streets/virginias-3-foot-passing-law/
Check out this good visual on passing distance! Everyone’s experience is less stressful when we give each other some space.
If you want to help spread the word, you can even order up a nifty “3 Feet Please!” bumper sticker from DriveSmart VA by heading to the “Share the Road” section here.
SB 97 amends Virginia Code 46.2-839, which is in the section that deals with the regulation of traffic. Full details of the change are here.
What happens if there’s not 3 feet of room to pass safely? Sometimes, as the driver of a motor vehicle, you may have to wait for an opportunity to pass, just as you do now with slower moving cars or trucks. Passing with three feet may require you to cross the center line, so you’ll need to make sure you have a good view of oncoming traffic before you make your move.
This video from the Roswell, Georgia Police Department has some good tips for drivers and cyclists alike about the 3 foot passing law there. The laws are similar, and we thought the information was well worth a share!