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!