3 Feet: A Law To Protect Cyclists in Some States, a GREAT Idea Everywhere Else


When you’re driving in your car, what’s your definition of the “safe distance” you should maintain between your vehicle and the cyclist you’re about to pass by on your right?

A) Two feet?
B) One foot
C) As close as you can get without hitting the idiot who shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk to ride on?

As an avid road cyclist, I certainly hope you get that I’m kidding with Option C, but sadly, a lot of people won’t get that joke. Cycle haters to this degree are the minority but I’m willing to bet that most people reading this blog post, even those of you who pride yourselves on “sharing the road,” will be surprised to know that the safe passing distance between a motor vehicle and a cyclist is THREE FEET.


To illustrate just how much three feet is, the non-profit organization Look! Save A Life/Arizona posted a creative video that I just saw in my Facebook newsfeed and had to write about:


This video also inspired me to do a little research where I learned that 3 Foot (minimum – it’s 4 feet in Pennsylvania) Passing Laws exist in 24 states. The map below does not count California among the states with a 3 Foot Passing Law but Governor Brown signed that bill last September so they’re in the mix as well.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 1.40.16 PM

In addition to the obvious risk to the safety of cyclists who have every right to ride on the road unless otherwise posted, breaking a 3 Foot Passing Law, puts you at risk for pricey fines and costly points against your insurance.

Whether you live in a state with a 3 Foot Passing Law or not, the 3 Foot Rule just plain makes sense. The same rocks and broken glass you can run over in your car without puncturing a tire can spell doom for cyclists. More often than not, the only way for a bike rider to avoid a road hazard is to swerve around it so three feet is a nice cushion of space for cyclists to work with in an emergency. Three feet is also the cycling equivalent of “leaving room for the Holy Spirit” at a Catholic school dance–it’s a respectful distance that everyone can be comfortable with.

What are YOUR thoughts on the 3 Foot Rule? Too much? Not enough?
Tell us how you feel because no matter how you define a “safe distance,” being aware that cyclists are out there is the first step to safer driving. The more conversation on the subject, the more we’ll all look out for each other on the road and the safer we’ll all be as a result.
Jim Darroch


  1. susan
    April 23, 2014, 6:41 pm

    I am not cyclist but I grew up in a time of common manners. When I see a cyclist I stay behind them until I have a full lane to pass just like a car. The rules of the road as I learned them was that cyclists have to obey the same traffic laws as I do and I have to grant them the road as if they were a car. Sigh… why do we have to make things so difficult when it is in regard to the health and safety of everyone. Cars.. don’t be in such a hurry. Cyclists obey the traffic laws.

  2. Tony
    April 23, 2014, 3:48 pm

    3 ft is fine for <35 mph but as vehicle speed increases so too must the passing distance, especially for larger vehicles such as buses and semi's which produce the dreaded "truck-suck". At 40+ I want 4 feet, 50+ I'd really like 5 ft.

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