Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Safe Passing Done Right! (Almost!)



http://bikefriendlyoc.org/2012/10/09/council-set-to-pass-safe-passing-ordinance/#comment-10080


So the city council of Dallas is set to pass an ordinance for the safe passing of bicycles by car drivers. The language reads as follows:


The proposed ordinance would require the operator of a motor vehicle to: (1) vacate the lane occupied by a vulnerable road user when passing, and reenter the lane occupied by the vulnerable road user only after passing at a safe distance; (2) not turn right in front of a vulnerable road user unless safely clear of the vulnerable road user; and (3) not throw items at a vulnerable road user. A vulnerable road user includes operators of bicycles, hand cycles, unicycles, and other human-powered wheeled vehicles on a street or highway. A motor vehicle operator violating the ordinance may be subject to a fine not to exceed $500. The motor vehicle operator is provided a defense if the vulnerable road user was not complying with laws governing the operation of bicycles on streets and highways. A defense is also provided if the motor vehicle operator cannot change lanes because of a physical barrier or obstruction or because the change of lanes would be unlawful, and then passes the vulnerable road user at a safe speed and distance.


This gets a few things right, and a few things could be better, but this is some of the best stuff I've seen yet though I could do without the vulnerable road user designation. I should start by saying that this ordinance only makes clear what is already required by our state transportation code, namely that a vehicle may not pass another within the same lane if it is unsafe to do so, and instead must fully change lanes to execute a pass. This is a matter of temptation for car drivers because cyclists have a narrow profile, and often it seems like you could squeeze by without changing lanes, but in reality you can only do so by creating a risk to the cyclist. This just spells it out plain and simple: pass a bicycle just as you would any other vehicle, like a car or motorcycle.


My biggest tweak to this would be to state clearly that when traveling on a road with multiple lanes in the same direction of travel, cars in adjacent lanes shall not be considered obstructions, and that a car is expected to slow, yield the right of way to cars in that lane, then occupy the next full lane and execute the pass at a safe distance. Of course, there will be some argument over what a 'safe distance' means. What seems safe in a car may not seem all that safe on a bicycle.