02

Blog

How to Enforce the 3 Foot Law?

Like a lot of states, Georgia has a 3 foot law that requires cars and trucks to leave a distance of at least 3 feet when passing a bicyclist.   The advent of the 3 foot law should have been a tremendous benefit to the safety of the many riders on the roads in Georgia, particularly in the Atlanta area where we have (a) a whole lot of cars and (b) not a lot of protected or dedicated bike lanes.

I say “should have been” because I’ve come to question both the driving public’s awareness of the 3 foot requirement and the enforceability of this law.   To me, it’s similar to the law prohibiting texting while driving.  That’s a great law that serves a very meaningful purpose in letting driver’s know that there are huge fines if they’re driving while distracted by text messaging.  Yet in the 5 years since the texting law passed, I’ve never seen a single case of anyone getting a citation for driving while texting.   The reason is that the law, while well intentioned, is nearly impossible to enforce.   Unless a driver admits to texting, there’s no way for a police officer to tell if someone’s bad driving is the result of texting versus any other cause.   Besides, dialing a number into a phone while driving is legal but text messaging is not.  How is an officer supposed to tell the difference?   Is there even a difference from the standpoint of driver distraction?

Similarly, how can the police tell if someone violates the 3 foot law?   The obvious cases are ones where a bicyclist is taken down by a side view mirror as a car passes but beyond that circumstance, unless the police officer is a witness, how is the officer to enforce the law?    Additionally, when pressed on the subject, it’s apparent that both drivers and (sadly) a lot of law enforcement in this area aren’t even aware that the 3 foot law exists.

Well, here’s something new that serves the multiple purposes of both educating the driving public about the existence of the 3 foot law and documenting specific violations of the law.   It also creates some great “teachable moments” where both motorists, cyclists and law enforcement work together to help make the roads friendlier for everyone.   This pilot program that started in Chattanooga helps their police department give meaning to the 3 foot law in Tennessee.   The first step is to record driver’s violating the law.  The second step is for law enforcement (usually in plain clothes and on a bicycle) to confront those drivers, advise them of their violation, explain the law and issue a warning or, if necessary, a traffic ticket.   The third step is additional education for those drivers who have their cases resolved in the Court.

I love this program.   I’ll be talking to my friends in various Georgia advocacy groups about seeing if we can get a program started like this.  With good communication between cyclists, local police departments and advocacy groups, this seems like something that could be done quickly and effectively.   It’s too good an idea not to give it a try.

Let’s see what we can do to give the 3 foot law some meaning and to make the roads safer for all riders.

Comments

Denver Bicycle Riding on Sidewalk Ticket
Brian Weiss Mar 22, 2017

Bicycle commuters in Denver seem to be disproportionately targeted by the Denver Police for riding on the sidewalk when they are unable to give their side of the story.

Read More
NYC Google Maps
Daniel Flanzig Mar 20, 2017

An ongoing problem in New York State is the inability of a Police Officer to issue a traffic violation for an event they did not witness. Even if 10 witnesses confirm that a vehicle ran a red light and struck a cyclist, a Police Officer’s ability to write a summons is limited unless the event […]

Read More
Bike Law - 2017 Michigan Award
Bryan Waldman Mar 15, 2017

We weren’t able to narrow it down to 1 mechanic so we picked 3 mechanics as this year’s Bike Law Michigan Mechanic of the Year!

Read More
Spring Bike Maintenance
Arleigh Jenkins Mar 14, 2017

Read our in-house mechanic’s top tips for getting your bike ready for spring riding.

Read More
Bike Law - Victim Blaming in Bike Crashes
Arleigh Jenkins Mar 07, 2017

Bike Law network members, Lauri Boxer-Macomber (Maine) and Brian Weiss (Colorado) talk about how the media and law enforcement should treat crash reporting more fairly.

Read More
Bike Law Kickr Review
Arleigh Jenkins Feb 20, 2017

A 500-mile initial review of the Wahoo Kickr Indoor trainer, why we purchased it and who we think it is for.

Read More
Hazards of Biking with a GoPro or Garmin
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Feb 15, 2017

Did you know that there are reasons for riding with and without cameras strapped to your handlebars and embedded within your tail lights?

Read More
Cycling Law Enforcement Training in Georgia
Bruce Hagen Feb 10, 2017

CBS Atlanta News This past November, Fulton County elected a new sheriff. (Yes, there’s literally a New Sheriff in Town.) During the run-up to the election, one of the candidates posted a tasteless video of John Wayne shooting guns and seemingly taking out cyclists. This created a huge backlash. One of the candidates for Sheriff, […]

Read More
2017 Moving People Forward Conference
Arleigh Jenkins Feb 08, 2017

This past Monday I attended the Moving People Forward conference in downtown Denver. The conference was hosted by Bicycle Colorado in lieu of their annual Colorado Bike Summit which has been moved to later in the year. Leaving the conference I had mixed emotions from my attendance. As I boarded the commuter rail back to my […]

Read More
Olga Cook Ghost Bike
Daniel Flanzig Feb 02, 2017

The New Jersey man charged with felony manslaughter for striking and killing cyclist Olga Cook in the bike lane on the West Side Highway has agreed to plead guilty to all charges.

Read More
Bike Law - 2017 Fat Bike Nationals
Bryan Waldman Feb 01, 2017

A recap of the 2017 Fat Bike Nationals held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Words from Bryan Waldman, and photo credit goes to Bike Law cyclocross racer, Wade Burch.

Read More
Cyclist Stop Sign
Brian Weiss Jan 30, 2017

Bike Law fully supports the Colorado Safety Stop Law, Senate Bill 93, that was introduced by Senator Andy Kerr to rethink the, “Operation Of Bicycles Approaching Intersections”.

Read More
Load More