Passing With Oncoming Traffic
Ron asked: We know the 3 foot clearance rule for vehicles overtaking the cyclist. Does that distance apply to oncoming vehicles as well? When meeting an oncoming vehicle that is overtaking another vehicle on a 2 lane road, is there given a safe distance for avoidance? Does the presence of a cyclist in the oncoming lane make the vehicle’s pass improper?
The three-foot minimum passing distance only applies to vehicles proceeding in the same direction. That includes one bicyclist passing another. Bicycles are vehicles, but not motor vehicles, and these statutes apply to 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 …
(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 non-motorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or non-motorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.
Drivers of vehicles, including bicyclists, are entitled to half of the roadway when proceeding in opposite direction on a two-lane roadway.
s. 316.082 – Passing Vehicles Proceeding in Opposite Directions
(2) Upon roadway having width for not more than one line of traffic in each direction, each driver shall give the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway, as nearly as possible.
There is a specific prohibition against a driver changing lanes to pass another vehicle in a two-lane roadway if there is oncoming traffic. Bicycles are traffic. The overtaking driver must insure there are no vehicles, including bicycles, in the opposing lane that will be affected, and must return to the original lane before coming within 200 feet of oncoming traffic.
s. 316.085 – Limitations on Overtaking, Passing, Changing Lanes and Changing Course
(1) No vehicle shall be driven to the left of the center of the roadway … clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic … without interfering with … any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction … return to an authorized lane of travel … before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.