A recent article in the Columbian newspaper highlighted a Washington State law protecting bicyclists which it seems like driving folks could use a refresher on. So, here goes (please excuse me while I step up onto my soapbox)!
Giving Three Feet Of Space For Bicyclists
As of 2020, motor vehicles on the roadway must give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space, if not the whole lane, when passing.
The bicyclists interviewed in the Columbian article expressed dismay. In their experience, drivers are not following the law. The bicyclists are smartly starting to protect themselves on some level with body cameras, etc., but unfortunately, law enforcement agencies are limited in what they can do with photographic evidence of dangerous driving provided after the fact.
How To Be Safe While Driving Around Bicyclists
The safety implications for the bicyclist are obvious—they are not encased in a mass of metal and glass and have much more to lose in any potential collision than the driver. The article clearly spells out guidance regarding safely passing vulnerable roadway users:
Two lanes? Give one. When there are two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, the driver must move over completely, at least one whole lane to the left, to pass the vulnerable user.
One lane? Slow down, give 3 feet. When there is just one travel lane, the passing driver must slow down and give the vulnerable user at least 3 feet of space.
One lane, space in the opposite lane? Move all the way over. If there's just one travel lane but space in the opposite-direction lane, the passing driver must — when it's safe — move all the way left into the opposite-direction lane, providing an entire lane of space for the vulnerable user.
Ultimately, it is safe to assume that the offending drivers cutting it close with bicyclists on the roadway are likely not bicyclists themselves. It should, though, all come back to putting oneself in the other person's shoes and treating other people with an appropriate amount of respect and consideration. To those offending drivers, I'd suggest picturing yourself on a road bike with a plastic and foam helmet on a roadway where the speed limit is 50 miles per hour and then drive accordingly. Share the road.