Initial Observations on the Passage of Michigan’s 3′ Law for Passing a Cyclist – and Why the Legislature got it Right
Michigan didn’t have a hard and fast rule on distance required to pass a cyclist until Wednesday-ish.
The law won’t take affect till August of this year but I noticed a difference already, yesterday. I went out with the owner of our local shop and my best cycling bud, Mike for a 29 miler and was amazed by the fair clearance we were given. Amazed.
First, I think the Michigan legislature got it right with the law, exactly right.
Some advocates have been pushing for five feet and that’s been stalled in our Senate. Five feet of clearance is too much in my humble opinion. I ride in scenarios several times a week that would make passing our group virtually impossible requiring almost half a lane’s clearance to pass. If we’re riding in a double pace-line, as is legal per Michigan’s current law, an extra five feet is hard to come by, let alone judge. Three feet? Easy enough. As a construction professional with more than twenty years experience – I am acutely aware of the difference between three and five feet.
Also, and the importance of this cannot be understated, the new law allows motorists to cross a double yellow to pass a cyclist when safe. Believe it or not, there are motorists out there who would choose to buzz a cyclist (pass within less than a foot of a cyclist) to keep their vehicle inside the double yellow but get by a cyclist. Technically this is the cyclist’s fault as a motorist shouldn’t be given enough room to squeeze by in the lane – the cyclist technically shouldn’t ride that close to the shoulder of the road but it is in our nature to not want to “be in the way”. This observation of mine, that these motorists exist, is based on not only on supposition. I’ve chased more than a couple down. On my bicycle. They were quite honest at being challenged, too. “Well, I had to get by you and I can’t cross the double yellow”. In that particular case I was riding at 22 mph in a 25 mph zone and the motorist “had to get by me”. Folks, the mirror on his truck missed my head by inches. If I’d have turned my head at the wrong time, God knows. That provision is greatly needed for motorists. In fact, I regularly cross a double yellow when safe to get by a cyclist or pedestrian no matter what the law says anyway. It’s just the right thing to do and I’d rather get a ticket than crowd a vulnerable road user.
To wrap this up, the law is good for us, just a day after its passage in the State House and before it’s even gone into effect. I never would have guessed it would be so noticeable, so soon, but I can’t ever remember having so much room on a ride. Heck, we even had cars wait for us to turn at a four-way stop intersection… I almost played the lotto based on that alone!
I rolled out with Matt and my buddy, Mike yesterday morning bright and early. It was 24° (or -4 C most everywhere except ‘Merica) when we headed down the road. Better, it “felt like” 18. I won’t bother with the Celsius… it’s freakin’ cold.
I think Matt swore at Mike because it was so stinkin’ cold. I chuckled. Mike and I double-teamed Matt into coming out with us Wednesday – we actually went to his wife and asked her if he could come out to play. We all had a pretty good laugh over the whole thing.
The cold, or what it does to a cyclist, is almost humorous. Your muscles don’t really work right – the cold takes about two miles an hour out of you, maybe more. I don’t know why but the cold sucks the speed out of you, it just is what it is. That said, the cold still beats riding on the trainer, God forbid.
On this day, though, we had a couple of things going for us. First, the sun was out and it was brilliant. Second, the wind was fairly mild. What little there was happened to be dead into us on the way out. With the exception of a few miles it was at our back for much of the ride home.
I won’t lie, I was surprised… as cold as it was, I actually did have a good time and that’s pretty rare for a ride in the cold. Oh, and speaking of cold, we’ve only got a few more days of it before it warms up a little bit around here. About time, too.