News, updates, commentary and more from BikeAthens. BikeAthens is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Athens, GA. BikeAthens promotes transportation and land-use policies that improve alternative modes of transportation, including pedestrian, cycling, and public transit options. The mission of our organization is to make alternative transportation a practical, convenient, and safe option for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County.

Friday, February 5, 2010

HB 988: 3 foot passing law

Unfortunately, we hear all the time about folks who get buzzed and knocked off their bikes, scared, or seriously injured or killed. Despite what many Georgia cyclists believe, state law makes no specific statements about how cars should pass bicycles. The portion of the code that refers to passing (40-6-42) states only that

(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle;

We must note of course that bicycles are vehicles under state law. Sixteen other states have laws that apply a 3 foot safe passing distance for cars passing bicycles.

This law works as an educational tool for drivers and as a standard for enforcement (how close is too close? "I didn't hit him -- he just fell down after I passed").

Based on Georgia's accident statistics from 2004-2006, more than half (55%) of recorded deaths from car vs bicycle crashes occurred when the car and bicycle were traveling in the same direction, when speeds tend to be higher and injuries more severe, highlighting the need for education and enforcement of a safe passing distance.

Georgia is now one of seven states with a proposed 3 foot passing law: HB 988 was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives by Wendell Willard of Roswell. Please encourage your state representative to support this bill. Its passage will increase safety for all of our roads' users. For more information on the merits of this bill, please visit

* Thanks to Drew Wade with Savannah Bicycle Campaign for drafting the above statement!


Greg said...

we need this put in effect

Rodney said...

Three foot laws and Far to Right (FTR) laws need to be abolished.

The three foot law, is nothing more than a nice, warm and fuzzy feeling for cyclists. The truth is many motorists have NO IDEA about such statutes (or the other rules of the road that apply to vehicles, whether animal, human, or motor propelled).

Many of the so-called-cyclists that are involved in crashes do not possess the aptitude to safely operate a bicycle. I'm not saying they're not capable, just lacking the required knowledge/skill that will allow them ride conflict-free.

Education is very important in regards to operating on the roads, no matter which mode of conveyance you choose. If the roads are designed for vehicle travel, why marginalize yourself and other cyclists?

A good explanation of stress free and conflict free riding , based on FL statutes, can be found at

Rodney said...

Here in FL,and I presume in the other states, the 3-foot passing law is highly unenforceable. Many law enforcement officers either lack the knowledge of the statutes as they pertain to bicycle operators or have a bias towards us.

If this makes you feel good, like riding in a debris filled bicycle lane, corralled out of the way of "I pay gas taxes for the road and you don't" motorists, I wish you the very best. FL will have a Mandatory Bike Lane use (when present)starting September 1, 2010. (FL HB971)

FWIW, I get closer passes in a bike lane than if I control the lane, where I belong. Three foot is a minimum based on a 30 mph overtaking vehicle. 4 foot for 40 mph, 6 foot for 60 mph, etc. These minimums do not even take into consideration the size of overtaking vehicle.

An 18 wheeler or large delivery truck will have to give more because of the draft and vacuum created during overtaking.