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Texas Debating 3-Foot Passing Law

Make your voice heard in favor of a 3-foot passing law to protect Texas cyclists.

It happens all the time: Someone emails me video footage, clearly showing they were biking along when a car buzzes past, coming within inches of a horrible crash — and there’s nothing I can do about it because we don’t have the laws in place to do something to help.

Luckily, that might be about to change.

 

3-Foot Law Failed in 2019, Let’s Succeed in 2021

The Texas legislature will in 2021 consider enacting a statewide 3-foot passing law for bicyclists. An identical bill was introduced in the 2019 session as House Bill 962, but it died in committee when the legislature adjourned.

That bill offered clear guidance about the buffer necessary to legally pass a bicyclist: (1) at least three feet for a passenger car or a light truck; or (2) at least six feet for a commercial motor vehicle or a truck other than a light truck. The new, 2021 version of the bill, which will be filed as HB554, will be identical.

The Purpose of a 3-Foot Law

If you’re wondering what purpose the 3-foot passing law may serve, it’s clarity and recognition that bicyclists need adequate space when a driver passes by because they’re likely to suffer a very bad outcome if they don’t. A difference of inches could be fatal, so why not require some room for error? Even though Texas has a statewide law that requires “safe passes” of all vehicles, it doesn’t objectively define the space needed for a safe pass or have any specific protection for bicyclists.

Across the country, 35 states have passed 3-foot passing laws protecting bicyclists, and Texas currently sits in the pool of 15 states that does not define a safe passing distance, which means it’s impossible to legally define when someone cuts it too close.

The 2021 version of the 3-foot passing law is sponsored by Rep. Ray Lopez, who represents the 125th District out of San Antonio, Texas. At Bike Law, we have been in lengthy talks with his Legislative Director, Mihaela Plesa, about the substance of the proposed law and what we can do to help it pass. We’re already past the early stages, which is where the 2019 version died when the legislature adjourned, and now we’re calling on you to help us.

If you support this bill being passed, here’s your chance to show it. I am only asking for 2 minutes of your time to complete this step, which is critical to showing our lawmakers that we need this law.

 

3-Foot Passing Law: Find Your State Representative

3-foot passing law

Step 1: Find your Texas House rep by clicking here and typing in your address. Your legislator will be listed next to your Texas House District. Click on the link and your legislator’s official page will open.

 

3-Foot Passing Law: Tell Them You Support HB554

3-foot passing legislator

Step 2: You will see a blue “Email” button next to your legislator’s picture. Click this button and you will be taken to a form. Fill out your contact information and you will see a “Your Message” box. This is where you write your support for the 3-foot passing law. While it’s best to type in your own thoughts, you can also copy and paste any of the suggested points:

  • As a member of the community, I support HB554 and believe it will help provide a safer roadway situation by calling attention to the minimal amount of space that any driver should leave when passing a bicyclist.
  • As a bicyclist, I have been unsafely passed by a car or truck. Texas has fallen behind the other 35 states that have a safe passing law for people on bikes. Therefore, I urge you to support HB554 so that people who ride bikes in Texas have additional protections from unsafe drivers.
  • As a member of a bicycling club, I often ride my bike on Texas roads. In the past, I have had one or more friends hit by a car because the driver did not leave enough room when passing. Texas does not currently have a statewide bill such as HB554, which I ask you to support to vote in favor of passing.
  • As an owner/employee of a bike shop, I have seen the rise in bicycling this year because of the COVID pandemic. More people and families are now riding outdoors and on Texas roadways. I support HB554 and believe that it will call attention to the physical space that should be left when a driver is passing someone riding a bicycle.

The Texas legislature convenes Jan. 12. If you would like to show your support for the 3-foot passing law, it is important that you do so now.

To put into context how this law should have been in effect a decade ago, Ms. Plesa told me she was shocked to learn Texas has previously approved a “Share the Road” license plate but had not passed a statewide law to help keep people on bikes safe. Great question.

This may be our last chance to take action on the proposed 3-foot passing law, and I hope we take advantage of this moment to make safer roads for bicyclists in the future. Please help us by taking a couple of minutes to show your support to our legislators.

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