02

Blog

Michigan Bicycle Accident Lawyer Bryan Waldman on the need for a Safe Passing Law

For the safety of Michigan bicyclists and motorists, it is hard to imagine a more important piece of legislation than a “safe passing law.” Safe passing laws require motorists to pass bicycles at a safe distance and speed, and often dictate a minimum distance (typically three feet) that motorists must ensure separates the edge of their vehicle from the bicycle.

Over the years, as a bicycle accident attorney in Michigan, I and other lawyers in my firm have represented cyclists injured in all types of motor vehicle/bicycle accidents. We have represented cyclists struck by vehicles at intersections, on crosswalks, as the result of being “doored,” but the most common type of accident we see involve collisions where a motor vehicle strikes a bicyclist while attempting to pass the bicycle, when traveling in the same direction. Tragically, it has been our experience that these types of crashes typically also result in the most severe injuries to the cyclist.

Our law firm’s experience is consistent with national statistics. According to the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 677 deaths to cyclists in 2011. Studies have determined that almost 60% of fatal bicycle/motor vehicle accidents involved a vehicle and bicycle traveling in the same direction.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have safe passing laws which require motorists, when passing bicyclists, to make sure that there is a specified distance between the car and the cyclist. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have enacted “three foot passing laws,” mandating that the safe distance to pass a cyclist shall be no less than three feet. (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin). Pennsylvania has a four foot passing law, and Virginia has a two foot passing law. California recently passed a three foot passing law, but it will not take effect until September 14, 2014. Additionally, nineteen states (including South Carolina) have “general passing laws,” which require vehicles to pass bicyclists at a safe distance and speed, but do not provide a specific minimum distance for passing. The problem with general passing laws is that they give motorists little guidance as to what is considered a safe passing distance, and leave far too much room for interpretation when attempts are made to enforce the safe passing law.

Unfortunately, this means that Michigan is one of only seven states that has not passed or enacted any type of law requiring motorists to use safety or caution when passing a bicyclist. This is particularly troubling, due to the fact the Michigan Legislature has found it necessary to enact legislation requiring motorists to exercise caution and safety when passing other motorists. In this regard, MCL 257.636 states:

“The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of that vehicle, and when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.”

Since Michigan law does not include a bicycle in its definition of “vehicle” (MCL 257.79), bicyclists are not protected by this statute. Obviously, cyclists are in far greater danger of being seriously injured by a passing motorist than the driver or passenger in another motor vehicle. Accordingly, it only makes sense that Michigan afford at least the same protection for bicyclists that are being passed by motor vehicles as it does to motorists.

We strongly believe that the Michigan Legislature needs to take action now to protect cyclists, give motorists clear guidance as to what is considered safe passing, and enact a safe passing law which specifies a safe passing distance of no less than three feet.

Comments

Human Shield Bike Lane
Bruce Hagen Jul 29, 2019

If you ride bikes around Atlanta, chances are that you know Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe.  They’re some of the many people in town who seem to live on their bikes and can be seen riding everywhere.  While they both have their “day jobs,” folks in the cycling world know them for their place in […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Jul 19, 2019

This is a time when advocacy efforts are crucial to making our streets safer for everyone. Within 24 hours from the Two Wheel Tuesday gathering we suffered two more casualties.  On Wednesday morning, Marten Bijvank was on his way to work on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by an unlicensed DUI driver […]

Read More
AJ's Bicycle Shop in Iowa
Jim Freeman Jul 15, 2019

Bicycling Magazine recently published an article titled, “Hey, Bike Shops; Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”  The story follows a heavy-set 59 year old’s sad tale of how he was treated poorly from a number of local bike shops.   First and foremost, I would be clear that bikes are for almost everyone.  If you are big, […]

Read More
Bike accident scene
Rick Bernardi Jul 12, 2019

The big bike news out of the Oregon legislature this year was the passage of a Stop as Yield law. This was an enormous legislative victory for Oregon cyclists, the culmination of over a decade of advocacy. But it wasn’t the only legislative victory for Oregon cyclists this legislative session. A less glamorous but equally […]

Read More
Uber Biking Escort
Charlie Thomas Jul 11, 2019

I often find myself wanting to ride on a roadway corridor that doesn’t want me there. At best, I could make it across alive with some close calls and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At worst, I wouldn’t be around to write this blog post.  Of course, a safer, alternate route […]

Read More
Cycling Without Age Bike Law
Brian Weiss Jul 11, 2019

The founder of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team loves his life on two wheels. Gary Harty was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and raised in Colorado – Denver Metro area, and now makes bicycling in Lakewood, Colorado safe and fun.  Gary is part of the baby boomer generation. He attended Colorado State University (CSU) and […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Bike Law
Rachael Maney Jul 10, 2019

Outrage.  It is what drives action and engagement on the interwebs these days. If it’s not outrageous, it’s boring. The Election of 2018 proved that outrage increases TOS (“time on site”) more than friendship, sympathy, desire, or anything else.  Judgment. By definition it is necessary to reach any conclusion about anything. But passing it on […]

Read More
Stop as Yield for Cyclists
Rick Bernardi Jul 09, 2019

The Oregon Legislature made national news this past week, for all the wrong reasons. The State Senate, with a super-majority of Democrats in control, had been working on climate legislation which would have Oregon join a cap-and-trade market with California and Quebec. Unable to stop the legislation, Republican Senators fled the state en masse, preventing […]

Read More
Bike Law Alps
Charlie Thomas Jul 07, 2019

It’s Tour de France time. I follow the racing daily through the footage on TV feed and still photos. But I hadn’t ever considered what’s happening on the other side of the camera lens. Like, what actually goes into snapping these pictures that we see documenting the Tour’s happenings? I started to care more about […]

Read More
E Bike and insurance
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Jul 01, 2019

Prologue  Last month, I rode across the Casco Bay Bridge to talk e-bikes and insurance with Bob O’Brien, the Vice President of Noyes, Hall and Allen Insurance in South Portland, Maine.  Although I have yet to invest in an e-bike for myself, I have been captivated by e-bikes and their potential to get and keep […]

Read More
Brooke Nelson
Danny Feldman Jul 01, 2019

Brooke Nelson has been the ride director of the Cheaha Challenge (www.cheahachallange.com) since shortly after the 2014 ride and in the past 5 years, ride participation has increased 188%.  Since 2017 when it became the only UCI Qualifier, Alabama’s biggest ride has become known nationally and internationally.  The 2019 ride had participants from 31 states […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Jun 20, 2019

Thanks to some outstanding advocacy efforts, both the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia have recently scored two important wins for cycling safety. Pennsylvania:  “Dutch Reach” in State Driver’s Manual The “Dutch Reach” method of opening a car door has finally been added to the State Driver’s Manual after many years of conversation. […]

Read More
Load More