Three-Foot Law

Question

James asked:  I was cycling south-bound along A1A near the Haulover Park traffic signal, when a transit bus approaching me started blowing his horn.  In fear of an accident, it caused me to swerve off the roadway. I was cycling on the far right hand side of the road.  Is a transit bus exempt from the 3-foot law? When I caught up to him at the red traffic signal, he remarked, “What do you want me to do, there was no room to go around you?”

Answer

The statute requiring a minimum of three feet when passing a bicycle applies to drivers of all vehicles.

s. 316.083 – Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

(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. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

The driver of the bus is expected to comply with the laws and wait until it is safe to pass.  The responsibilities of the overtaking driver and burden for safe passing are described in this post

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/

In such cases, one should obtain all possible information about the offending driver and vehicle, in this case the number of the bus, and immediately report it to law enforcement officials.  You can still file a report at your local police department if you have that information.

Working with local advocacy organizations to address institutional problems will eventually result in educated drivers and an improved roadway environment.  Here are links to two such organizations in your area.

http://sfbikecoalition.wordpress.com/

http://www.greenmobilitynetwork.org/

Posted in Ask Geo, Overtaking & Passing Tagged with:
9 comments on “Three-Foot Law
  1. Droobieinop says:

    That would be great in only LEO’s would follow up on that. I have called numerous time about being run off the road, intimidated by bully drivers and yelled at, cut off etc. The response that I’ve received has been; If we don’t see it, we can’t do anything about it and, the burden of proof to prosecute the 3 ft law etc is too great to bother pursuing. No wonder this area ranks so high on bicycling magazine’s worst places to ride a bike list.

  2. Bob Shanteau says:

    The key to what happened is this: “I was cycling on the far right hand side of the road” and that the bus driver said, “there was no room to go around you.”

    If there was no room to go around you even though you were riding on the far right side of the road, then the travel lane you were riding in was too narrow for a vehicle and a bicycle to travel safely side by side and you needed to assert your right to use the full lane by riding further left. The bus driver will then see that he needs to change lanes to pass.

    The bus driver may still have honked at you, but if there was nowhere to get out of the way, what else can you do?

  3. Bill Davidson says:

    You should also file a complaint with the local transit authority.

  4. Frank says:

    Call the company with the bus number, time of day and location of incident.
    I did that, and after the third time, I finally got the bus drivers to start going around me or slowing down….
    Ya see, the bus drivers seem to think that the far right of the roadway (including bike lanes) belongs to them.
    It was baaaad in Lake Worth until I constantly called to complain and explain to them, that if the drivers didn’t start following the rules of the road, that I was going to get law enforcement involved.
    It’s even worse for me on my electric bike, because I can travel at 20mph and the buses think they’re going to be able to pass me and then cut me off.

  5. Robert M. Swiebel says:

    Thought all might be interested in the below quote from a attorney in Panama City regarding designated bike routs and three foot signage.
    “Bob,
    I had not forgotten this. The request was presented to the County’s liability insurance trust, the Florida Association of Counties Trust (FACT) who referred the matter to attorney Tim Warner of Panama City. Mr. Warner recommended against posting any signage designating a Bike Route unless the roadway had been designed and built with the 3ft. bike lanes. In his opinion posting the roadway in this manner gave the impression of safety that would encourage riding on a roadway not designed for bike traffic. The matter will be on the May 9, 2011 Administrative Committee. Thanks, Hunter”

  6. Bob says:

    Disregard above blog as it was not meant to be permanent nor public consumption. Thank you.

  7. Craig says:

    I had an incident with a car coming too close and I called the Lee County Sheriffs office. When the officer showed up he seemed to wonder why I bothered calling it in at all. Since violating the 3 foot law is a civil offense a person can only be cited if the infraction is witnessed by a law enforcement office. So it’s a great law for protecting cops on bikes.

  8. Jay says:

    These laws are pointless . I have been purposely run off the road and even threatened with a gun and the police say they can’t do anything unless they see it, even if there are witnesses….what a joke. Florida sucks for cycling.

  9. Geo says:

    Jay,
    Police officers can conduct an investigation into any criminal complaint, even if they don’t witness it. Using a vehicle to threaten and endanger a cyclist is a crime, assault, as is displaying a weapon. It isn’t the laws that are faulty. It sounds like it is the department in question.

    I recommend going to the police station and demanding that that you be allowed to file a formal complaint and request an investigation using the evidence you have. If initially denied, ask to see a supervisor. Obviously, if you can’t identify the person or vehicle in question, they won’t have much to go on.

    Always follow up with a letter to the police chief or Sheriff.

    Complaining is only effective if it is directed at someone who can do take action. In my experience, most cyclists find this to be too much trouble, thereby empowering the officers to continue those practices.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Three-Foot Law"
  1. […] that we’re not trying to ruin your day by making you wait an extra 4 seconds to pass us (safely at a 3-foot distance). We just want to be able to respectfully share the roads. Trust me, you never want to have to see […]

Leave a Reply