Missouri Cycling Advocate on the New “Four Foot” Passing Law in Pennsylvania.
There is no IQ test required to drive a car or ride a bike… but seeing accident after accident in St. Louis and the surrounding area in Missouri, I am glad to see the continued nationwide movement to pass “safe passing bills”. Every cyclist knows how it feels to have a car, truck or bus pass too close for comfort. I know many who have been hit by cars and survived to tell their tale, but not all. How many cyclists have experienced the “red pickup truck” cursing at them as they are passed on a lonely country road wide enough for all to be happy. Or how about the typical teenage girl in the Dodge Neon, texting her girlfriends, who turns straight into a cyclist. Motorists often misjudge the space needed due to inattentiveness, lack of the expectation of a cyclist, and lack of experience driving by cyclists. To make roads safer for bicyclists and other vulnerable road users, many states have passed “safe passing bills” to provide bicyclists the protection of law from passing motor vehicles.
On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, the Pennsylvania Senate voted to pass HB170, a bill that would require motorists allow a minimum of four feet when passing a cyclists on the roadway. If you review the bill, note that it refers to bikes as pedalcycles… not to be confused with motorcycles. The bill passed the Senate in a 45-5 vote and is now awaiting signature by their governor so it may become law. Once signed into law the Pennsylvania bill will require that:
- Bicycles in Pennsylvania must be operated in the right hand lane, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway.
- This does not apply to a bicycle using any portion of the road due to unsafe surface conditions.
- Motorists must overtake a bicycle with no less than four feet between the vehicle and the bicycle and at a “prudent reduced speed”.
- No turn by a motorist may interfere with a bicycle proceeding straight.
Here is the link if you would like to read the bill:
The “four foot” law is significant in that most states that have passed safe passing laws have limited it to three feet. Three foot laws have come under scrutiny for still being too narrow. Some driver’s education handbooks instruct to give 6 feet of room when passing a cyclist.
No Three or Four Foot Law in Missouri: Must Pass at “Safe Distance”
Insurance Company lobbyists have continued their success in Missouri in blocking a three or four foot passing laws. They fear a rise in claims if a clear-cut law is passed. Currently, Missouri has no specific number of feet that you must overtake a bicycle, but there is a specific vehicle-overtaking-bicycle law. Overtaking law, “304.678. Distance to be maintained when overtaking a bicycle.”, (here) states “The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, as defined in section 300.010, RSMo, shall leave a safe distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.” (italics added) Penalty: “Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of an infraction unless an accident is involved in which case it shall be a class C misdemeanor.”
If you have any questions about Missouri bicycle accident law, contact Michelle M. Funkenbusch, St. Louis Trial Lawyer and Cycling Advocate, 314-799-6602. Michelle provides free bicycle law education seminars to the community, high schools, scout troops, and adult social organizations. If you would like Michelle to speak to your group, please do not hesitate to contact her.