Back in July 2011, Georgia’s “Better Bicycling Bill” became the law. Other than cycling advocates, I’d venture a guess that very few Georgia motorists know anything about the changes brought about by the new law and, in particular, the so-called “3 Foot Law”:
40-6-56.35: Subsection (a) defines the term “Safe Distance” to mean not less than three feet. Subsection (b) states that “when feasible” motor vehicle operators will leave a “safe distance” between their vehicle and a cyclist traveling in the same direction when overtaking the cyclist.
Note: If anyone is interested, I detailed all of the change in a blog entry back in May right after the law was passed that you can find HERE.
Back in September 2011 I took a nice weekday afternoon ride along a familiar route and was “buzzed” by a construction vehicle and a school bus and wrote about my experiences after making contact with both the company and the county. The private firm was all-over getting the word out to their crews, whereas the school district never bothered to respond.
However, it was pretty clear that even these two heavy-road users had not taken the time to educate their drivers about the so-called “3-Foot Law” that requires motorists to yield a 3-foot safe passing zone around bicycles when overtaking.
So, as the temps rise and more cyclists return to the roads you gotta wonder when the old “Share the Road” signs are going to replaced by something like the sign at left to educate motorists.
Here’s the deal: having finally had a chance to get out for a weekday ride yesterday afternoon, it was pretty clear that very few motorists had a clue they needed to yield that 3-foot “safe passing distance” as I was ‘buzzed’ at least a dozen times, even with my amazingly bright dinote tail light flashing away. Today we had the same experience while out riding our tandem. Again, I suspect most motorists are clueless that such a requirement even exists, which means about the only time the law will come into play is after a motorist hits a cyclist and can be charged with violating 40-6-56-35… that is, assuming it was feasible to yield a “safe distance” to the cyclist.
Sorry, I just see these as hollow, “feel good” laws that will eventually become part of the fodder used to ban cyclists from certain public roads where officials decide it’s just to unsafe to put motorists at risk of being charged with crimes when they mow down cyclists. No, that’s not a misprint. I don’t see these laws that are designed to protect cyclists as anything more than the source of further motorist angst, if and when any motorist is ever convicted for hitting a cyclist and loses their license. Once that starts to happen with any regularity there won’t be some huge push for drivers to be more considerate and mindful of the laws pertaining to cyclists, as it will just be easier to designate certain roads to be off-limits for cyclists who the average motorist will see as not being smart enough to stay off of dangerous roads.