Michigan House approves 3-foot distance to pass bikes

Michigan motorists would have to allow 3 feet of clearance while passing a bike on the road unless it is “impracticable” under legislation approved Wednesday by the state House, which also voted to require teen drivers to learn about laws pertaining to cyclists and other vulnerable roadway users.

Michigan is among 11 states with no “safe passing” law, and bicyclists have been lobbying lawmakers to act. Thirty-eight cyclists were killed on Michigan roads in 2016 — the last year for which figures are available — almost double the number from two years earlier. Nearly 2,000 were injured.

“We want to make sure people are safe,” said Rep. Holly Hughes, a Montague Republican and sponsor of the safe distance bill , which passed 98-10. She added that Michigan is a cycling destination for tourists.

As introduced, drivers would have had to wait for 5 feet of clearance before passing a bike — a wider berth than all but one other state. She said the 3-foot marker is “progress and a foot in the door” on legislation that stalled in the past.

Starting in August 2019, drivers passing a bike would have to do so at a distance of at least 3 feet or, if that is impracticable, “at a safe distance to the left of that bicycle at a safe speed.” They could drive across the center line if it is safe, regardless of whether it is a no-passing zone. Violators would face a civil infraction and three points on their driving record.

The Senate, which passed a 5-foot requirement in 2016 only for the bill to not advance in the House, will consider the bills next.

The other measure , which won approval on a 106-2 vote, would mandate that Michigan’s initial teen driver education course include at least one hour of classroom instruction on laws pertaining to bikes, motorcycles and vulnerable roadways users, including pedestrians. The current law requires a component on bike and motorcycle laws but does not specify that a minimum amount of time be devoted to it.

Roughly half a dozen Michigan communities have enacted local 5-foot safe passing ordinances.  (AP)

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