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Technology Proves Unsafe Passing is the Norm

DATA SHOWS THAT EVERY TIME A CYCLIST GOES FOR A RIDE IN KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE, THEY EXPERIENCE AT LEAST ONE UNSAFE PASS ON THEIR RIDE.

Drivers are coming within less than 1.5 feet of cyclists on the road in Knoxville with alarming regularity.

Drivers are coming within less than two feet of cyclists on the road in Knoxville with alarming regularity.

It’s not your imagination. It’s not all in your head. Your combined senses of touch, sound, and sight all know what less than three feet looks and feels like when it happens to you. You don’t need a yardstick to know a close pass when it happens. If it feels too close, the data shows that it probably met the legal definition of too close in states with a three-foot safe passing law. Take what satisfaction you may get from the data proving what we all already knew, or at least strongly suspected.

Nearly every time I’ve ridden my bike on city streets over the past few months, it has been equipped with a C3FT ultrasound detection device, connected to a data logger, which is logging every single pass. I’ve been passed with less than three feet at least one time at some point on every ride. I’ve had a go pro mounted, so every single pass has been caught on camera. At least 5% of drivers don’t give cyclists three feet when overtaking them.

Unsafe Passing Sensor

We don’t have data on the number of cars who may give cyclists three feet, but overtake the cyclist while there is oncoming traffic and it is unsafe to pass.  

Later this month, the Knoxville Police Department is going to start enforcing the three-foot law using the C3FT device. I will continue riding with my C3FT and my data logger, hoping that the data shows a change in motorist behavior that corresponds with the enforcement of the three foot law. Five other local cyclists will be doing the same, capturing invaluable data as they go about their regular commutes and rides. Respecting cyclists’ lives enough to pass them safely is not enough incentive for some drivers, but the hypothesis is that a traffic citation will be.

Check out www.knoxvilletn.gov/min3tn for more info.

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