On August 13, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed into law a mandate that drivers pass cyclists at a safe distance when traveling on New York’s roads. Although the law does not set a specific distance, the text of the law states that three (3) feet is considered a safe distance and that sometimes an even greater passing distance is necessitated by road conditions.
PURPOSE OF BILL – To improve the safety of bicyclists who ride on the right side of the roadway by providing that when a motor vehicle overtakes or passes a bicyclist or bicyclists, he or she shall do so at a safe distance from the left side of the bicycle.
Each year drivers in vehicles, because they pass too closely, hurt or kill bicyclists who are riding on the right side of the road. For this reason, seventeen states have enacted safe passing laws. Several states, including Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Utah, specify that the motor vehicle maintain a distance of no less than three feet between it and the bicyclist.
A minimum of three feet is considered a safe distance in most circumstances. There are occasions when drivers must allow a greater distance to pass safely. For example, the impact of windblast and debris kicked up from vehicles passing too closely may cause a bicyclist to swerve and crash. A safe buffer between the motorist and the cyclist is needed in such common circumstances as when a cyclist needs to maneuver around cracks, potholes, or the hazard of an opening door from a parked car.
Another way to help ensure the safety of bicyclists who ride on the state highways would be to constructing marked bicycle lanes. However, many highways throughout the state are too narrow to accommodate bicycle lanes, and the cost of constructing such lanes would be prohibitive. By mandating passing at “a safe distance,” this legislation will serve to educate the public about the need for motor vehicles and bicyclists to share our roads safely. A violation will result in a traffic infraction.
Reference – http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S7897