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

Fairhope Bike Shop
Peter Wilborn Sep 16, 2019

Katie Bolton and her husband Joseph are the proud owners of Fairhope Cycle and Tri in Fairhope, Alabama – the eastern shore.  Their shop has been open for 8 years now and in addition to selling and servicing bicycles, the shop often is a “hub” for cycling events in the Fairhope area.   Katie grew up in […]

Read More
Rick Bernardi Sep 13, 2019

Stop as Yield. It was the legislative Holy Grail for Oregon cyclists. Idaho had pioneered the Stop As Yield concept—allowing cyclists to treat a stop sign as if it’s a yield sign—in 1982, and for decades, Idaho remained the only state where Stop as Yield was legal for cyclists, despite the actual practice being widespread, […]

Read More
Peter Wilborn Aug 20, 2019

A camera is necessary kit for every ride. But finding the right camera has been a challenge, until now. My rebuttable presumption: the Ricoh GR III is the best cycling camera of all time. Read on, and if you can prove there’s a better one, let me know. The Ideal Cycling Camera To find the […]

Read More
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
Load More