Bicycling is a fantastic way to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors and get a great deal of exercise while doing so. A growing number of Americans have taken up bicycling, whether it is for their daily commute, for exercise, or just for fun.
Michigan boasts more than 1,300 miles of biking trails for all cycling levels. Michigan also offers more rail trails than any other state and is one of the most scenic states for bicycle touring.
As we encourage people to get out and take a bike ride, it is important that we also increase safety measures for bicyclists who use our roads.
I recently supported Senate legislation to have Michigan join nearly 40 other states in implementing a safe passing law for drivers passing bicyclists on the road.
Senate Bills 123, 124 and 170 would require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on either the left or right side. The bills would permit drivers to pass a bicycle in a no passing zone if it is safe to do so. Law enforcement officers are able to use technology and other various measures to enforce these passing laws. Violation of the safe passing rule would result in a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket.
The package would also require the state’s initial teen driver education course to include at least one hour of classroom instruction on laws pertaining to bikes, motorcycles and vulnerable roadways users. The lesson would feature segments on laws pertaining to yielding the right-of-way, traveling at a safe and reasonable speed for conditions, ensuring a safe distance, and distracted driving.
Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have safe passing laws that mention bicycles. Additionally, several communities across the state have adopted minimum passing guidelines for vehicles overtaking a bicyclist.
It’s time we bring Michigan up to par with other state’s and create a consistent set of guidelines in state statute instead of a patchwork of local rules.
We can and should do more to prevent tragic accidents. We can do this by making it clear to drivers what their responsibilities are when approaching bicyclists on the road. While a fair amount of burden lies on the shoulders of bicyclists to avoid traffic accidents, it is reasonable to require automobile drivers to do the same.
SBs 123, 124, and 170 have been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for further consideration.