Tag Archive for safe passing distance

Morning Links: Bike lanes promote safer passing, and Chino Incycle manager run down by bike thieves

Maybe that painted bike lane is safer than you think.

In a new study from a Canadian university, researchers rode bicycles equipped with sensors and a handlebar-mounted camera to measure how close drivers pass people on bicycles.

The results show that on two lane roads without bike lanes, motorists passed people on bicycles too closely 12% of the time, based on the equivalent of a three-foot passing distance.

But on roads with bike lanes, that dropped to just 0.2%.

On four lane streets, incidents of close passing dropped from 6% to just 0.5%.

The university plans to use that data to develop tools to determine where bike lanes would do the most good.


Bike thieves walked out of the Chino Incycle Bicycles with a $10,000 mountain bike, then ran over the manager when she tried to stop them.

Bike mechanic Raul Ureno chased the thieves in his car and managed to get the bike back, though he was unable to stop them.

The manager, who wasn’t named, suffered a broken pelvis, crushed ribs and fractured skull.

There’s a $10,000 reward for the suspects. Let’s hope someone takes them up on it.


A Rancho Mirage-area Strava user posted a photo of a powerful billboard featuring fallen cyclist Will Campbell.

Too bad we don’t have the money to put these up everywhere, one for every rider who loses their lives on the streets.

Maybe then drivers would start to pay attention.

Thanks to Steve S for the heads-up.


In yet another example of LA leaders’ rhetoric exceeding their actions, bike-friendly Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nury Martinez were joined by the decidedly unfriendly Paul Koretz in calling for a Green New Deal for the City of Los Angeles.

Never mind that Koretz has consistently blocked much-needed bike lanes in his Westside district, forcing residents to rely on carbon fuel-driven motor vehicles. And gone out of his way to fight the density that would cut trips for work, school and shopping.

Koretz has long positioned himself as LA’s most ecologically minded councilmember.

But until his actions catch up with his words, they’ll remain just that.


Thanks to Megan Lynch for the link.


Mountain biker Brandon Semenuk tells the full story behind the most viewed mountain bike video of all time.

If you’ve got four minutes to spare, it’s worth taking a brief break in your day to watch the original video. Which is a lot shorter than the 24-minute explanation.



Good news, Los Angeles. You no longer have the worst traffic in the US. In fact, we’re not even in the top five.

CiclaValley offers a video essay on the best route from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside, suggesting Fryman Canyon to Franklin Canyon, with a surprisingly low 442 feet of climbing. I’m going to save that one for my next trip over the Hollywood Hills.


A San Diego site says it’s time to reign in e-scooters, as the city’s mayor proposes to do just that.

More sad news, this time from Bakersfield, where a man was killed when he allegedly rode his bike out in front of an oncoming car at an intersection.

Redding prepares to open a new bike path connecting downtown to the Sacramento River, replacing what residents call a harrowing one-mile journey.

Work crews with the California Conservation Corp destroyed three popular, but unsanctioned, bike trails in the forests around Arcata, which a local news site called “the lifeblood of the community forest for generations of bike riders.”


Bicycling offers nine tips on how to get a stolen bike back, including recommending Bike Index as your best bet to register your bike after the theft. You can report your stolen bike with Bike Index right here on this site. Then again, why wait until it’s too late?

You can kiss the last remaining Performance Bicycle locations goodbye; if you don’t make it in before March 2nd, it will be too late. Thanks to Mike Wilkinson for the tip.

If you can get past the Wall Street Journal’s paywall, you can read about a Hawaii man who took a five-day ride around the coast of the Big Island once the Kilauea volcano settled down.

The rich get richer. Portland is attempting to reclaim its title as America’s leading bike city by building 16.5 miles of protected bike lanes. And getting rid of 1,000 parking spaces in the process.

Crosscut profiles the active transportation director for the Washington State Department of Transportation, asking if she can save bicycling in the state.

Caught on video: Police in Mesa AZ are looking for three people who attempted to run over a group of bike cops, crushing their bikes as they jumped out of the way.

Utah’s legislature is moving forward with a bill that would allow bike riders to go through red lights if they don’t change after stopping for 90 seconds, over the objections of law enforcement.

Um, sure. An allegedly drunken San Antonio driver who killed a bike riding surgeon says she fled the scene because she got frightened after thinking she ran over something. Meanwhile, his accused killer is out on $50,000 bond. Sure. Doesn’t everyone get terrified when they drive over a stick or a speed bump or something? Thanks to Stephen Katz for the tip.

Lime is pulling the plug on it’s bikeshare service in Hartford CT, leaving the city scrambling for a replacement.

While Los Angeles bike riders wait for the DA’s office to finally file charges against the hit-and-run driver who killed Frederick “Woon” Frazier, the NYPD has failed to make arrests in four recent hit-and-runs involving people on bicycles, including two where they know the identity of the driver. Which begs the question, why should drivers take hit-and-run seriously when police and prosecutors apparently don’t?

About damn time. A well-funded global alliance launched in the nation’s capital with the goal of finally putting people before cars on our streets.

After that Greenville SC boy jumped on his bike to get help for his unconscious father, bighearted local firefighters surprised him with a new bicycle.


Vancouver police help a group of college engineering students recover their custom-designed, hand-built, one-of-a-kind racing ebike after it was stolen.

London is responding to the death of a bike rider by banning cars entirely from three roads leading into a busy junction in the city’s financial district.

Caught on video too: A London bike rider discovers an air horn can move mountains. Or at least pedestrians blocking bike lanes. Be sure to stay to the end for the totally unsurprising response; thanks again to Steve S.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is one of us, riding a bicycle into the English Premier League team’s Spain training camp, as they take a break from the title chase.

Amsterdam has a nine-year old junior bike mayor. Which is exactly one more than Los Angeles has, junior or otherwise.

Bari, Italy is now the first Italian city to pay residents to bike to work, up to the equivalent of $28 a month.

They get it. Melbourne’s leading motoring organization is recommending that bicycle superhighways move to the top of the state government’s infrastructure plans to fight traffic congestion in the city.

An Aussie writer calls for a little sympathy and tolerance after reading the disturbing comments following the death of a bike rider.

A Singapore man has been spotted again riding a bicycle while towing a strange ladder-like metal extension. Unless it actually is a ladder, in which case it’s not strange at all.

Competitive Cycling

Lawson Craddock, the pro cyclist who finished dead last in his first Tour de France after riding the entire race with a broken collarbone, is working his way back to this year’s race with a new attitude as a new father.

Fifty-eight-year old former Tour de France stage winner Sean Yates has turned to an ebike to keep riding after suffering a heat defect that limits his pulse rate to just 90 beats a minute.

Rouleur talks with 1960s six-day race superstar Patrick Sercu.


Apparently it’s against the law to ride a moped while carrying a bicycle in some places. Climbing the legendary Mont Ventoux without a seat.

And it may be about to get wet out there, but at least this is one problem we don’t have in LA.


The rules of the peloton won’t pass on the street

Let’s take one more quick look at common bike courtesy. Which seems to be pretty uncommon these days.

A few weeks back, I was riding on the bike path above Santa Monica when I came up behind an older woman riding slowly on an old beach cruiser.

Normally, I would have just passed her and been on my way, but there were a couple of joggers coming in the opposite direction. And there wasn’t enough room to complete my pass without posing a risk to her or the runners.

So I settled in behind her, matching her speed until I could safely go around her.

Meanwhile, a couple of riders entered the bike path behind me. One I recognized as a local amateur racer; judging by his jersey, the other appeared to be a member of a mid-level pro team.

As they rode up behind me, I positioned myself just behind and slightly to the left of the woman rider, making it clear that I was waiting to pass. But once the runners passed and I began to make my move, the two riders behind cut me off, without a word, passing so closely that our arms nearly brushed — something that could have easily taken out all four riders at once.

I had no choice but to squeeze my brakes and drop back, then offer my apologies to the woman I’d been trying to pass, who was nearly caught up in a dangerous collision through no fault of her own.

And once I caught up to the other riders, I was mad as hell.

I’m the first to admit that I handled it badly. Instead of calmly discussing the matter, I gave them both a piece of my mind. Not that I have that many pieces left.

But here’s the thing. There are different rules for racing and riding on the roadway. And what works in the peloton doesn’t work on the street. Or on the bike path.

From their perspective, they saw their opening and took it; it was up to me to respond more assertively. And in the peloton, passing closely is a sign of a rider’s skill — not the dangerous rudeness I perceived.

From a non-racer’s perspective, though, it’s just the opposite. The rules of the road dictate that you wait until it’s safe to pass, and allow the rider in the superior position to go first. And then, and only then, you give other riders the same clearance you’d expect a driver to give you.

In other words, three feet when possible. Or roughly the length of a grown man’s arm.

If the situation dictates that you have to pass closer than that, for whatever reason, you should always announce your presence by saying “on your left” or “passing left.” And always, always, always pass on the left.

The only exception is the rare instance when the rider is so far to the left that passing on that side just isn’t possible. In which case you may need to pass on the right, but only after announcing that you’re going to — and waiting a moment to make sure the other rider doesn’t respond by cutting back in front of you.

After all, some people seem to have trouble with advanced concepts like right and left.

And when the shoe is on the other foot — when a rider comes up behind you and announces “on your left” — remember that he’s not being rude, obnoxious or aggressive. He’s being polite and showing concern for your safety, as well as his own.

So just respond by continuing to ride straight, or if there’s room, move over to your right to let the other rider pass. And it couldn’t hurt to nod your head or say thanks as the rider passes.

It might encourage him or her to show the same courtesy to other riders down the road.

And who knows, this courtesy thing might just catch on.


L.A. prepares for its first ever bike count, there’s still time to sign up if you’d like to volunteer; Nashville just did it. Fellow cyclist Russell Crowe braves the traffic on Sunset Boulevard; note BOA and Chateau Marmot in the background. As usual, Joe Linton takes the high road and encourages Santa Monica to make positive changes to maintain its bike friendly city status. Another stolen bike alert in L.A. A new study suggests that bike lanes may encourage drivers to pass closer that they would otherwise. A man who dedicated his life to providing bikes to disadvantaged children passed away this week; most of us can only hope to do that much good in this world. A Colorado man is convicted of letting his dogs attack a cyclist during a race last year. Boise gets new bike lockers. Turns out the Vatican has long supported cycling, as well as other sports. An elite Aussie cyclist drives drunk, crashes into his former training partner and flees the scene. Budapest Critical Mass riders plan to encircle city hall in protest. A Middle-Eastern cyclist demonstrates the origin of the Camelback brand. Finally, two teams face off in a Gotham Iron Chef-style contest to raise New York cycling to Amsterdam-ish levels. Maybe we could use something like that here.

Three-foot passing zones — even a near miss can be deadly

If you’ve been reading this for awhile, you probably know that I’m a strong advocate of laws establishing a minimum three-foot distance for passing a cyclist.

It’s just common sense.

Just about anyone who has ever ridden a bike knows how dangerous it can be when a car passes too close. And just about anyone who has ever driven past a cyclist knows that it’s hard to judge just exactly how close is too close — and that riders often swerve to avoid obstacles a driver may not be aware of.

A three foot — or arm’s length — distance simply provides a reasonable margin of error to protect everyone’s safety.

It makes so much sense, in fact, that it is slowly becoming law across the nation. As of last year, eleven states had passed three-foot laws, while a number of states have either passed or are considering such laws this year.

What brings this up is today’s news.

A newspaper in New Jersey and a letter writer in Colorado go to great lengths to argue against three-foot laws under consideration in their states.

The New Jersey editorial questions why not have a two-foot distance for passing skinnier people, or whether someone will get a ticket for passing with just a 2’11” margin. And notes that drivers have enough to worry about without having to judge how closely they pass a cyclist.

Meanwhile, the Durango writer posits that some roads are just too narrow and curving to permit a three-foot margin without causing accidents — and that cyclists should be banned from some roads entirely.


Virtually every state in the union already requires passing cyclists at a safe distance; all this law does in specify what a safe distance is.

Despite what the New Jersey paper says, no one will get a ticket for passing 1” closer than three feet, or two inches, or even three. No officer has the ability to judge distance that closely.

But they can tell when you’re too close. When that margin is far less than three feet, and close enough to interfere with the cyclist’s ability to ride safely.

Simply put, if you can’t safely pass a rider with a margin roughly of three feet, you can’t safely pass. So just slow down for a moment, and wait until you can.

In other words, drive safely. Just like common sense, and the law, requires.

Then there’s this, one day earlier, from the same newspaper.

A cyclist was killed when riding along a New Jersey street. Witnesses say he was struck by a passing school bus in a hit-and-run accident; yet all the evidence — including security camera footage and an examination of the bus — indicate that no collision occurred.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.

If the bus passed so closely that witnesses on the scene swear it hit the cyclist, it was clearly too close — well within the proposed three-foot limit — causing the cyclist to lose control of his bike. Yet no charges will be filed.

To quote one of comments that followed the editorial:

How many drivers can gauge whether or not they are 3 feet away – all that really matters is that you do not hit the cyclist.

The death of an experienced cyclist — a 5,000 mile a year rider — clearly demonstrates the fallacy of that attitude.

But they still don’t get it. 

How many more cyclists have to die until they do?

Dave Zabriskie’s Yield to Life Foundation offers great tips for cyclists and motorists on how to share the road safely. Laguna Beach says it’s not safe to ride in their city, but bike lanes aren’t the answer. Stephen Box recently wrote about bus drivers who think they have the right to cut off cyclists; a 15-year old Oregon cyclist was killed in a similar incident — which might have been avoided if he’d stopped for the red light. One in five cyclists killed in New York had alcohol in their systems; only 3% were wearing helmets. The Hammer Museum is Westwood is sponsoring a bike night next week, complete with bike valet courtesy of the LACBC; the LA Weekly suggests that you wear a helmet and be careful on your way there. Finally, L.A.’s own hometown cycling travel writer gets political. You go, girl!

Bike law change #4: Clarify the law allowing drivers to leave their lane to pass a bike

As a driver, I was taught to give riders plenty of clearance when passing, even if that meant briefly going into the other lane or crossing the yellow line. And I’ve always understood that the law not only allowed that, but actually encouraged it.

But I’ve noticed that while many L.A. drivers do just that, others are reluctant to pass a cyclist if it means even putting their left wheels on the divider line, let alone actually crossing it. Instead, they wait behind the rider, becoming angrier and more impatient with every passing moment. Or they zoom past at the first opportunity, whether or not there’s room — let alone if it’s actually safe.

So let’s clarify the law, so that every driver knows it’s okay to cross into the other lane or briefly cross the center line in order to pass a cyclist, as long as it can be done safely and there are no other vehicles in the way.

Bike law change #1: Require drivers to maintain a minimum passing distance of three feet

As it now stand, the law only requires that drivers pass a bicycle on the left, and maintain a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle.

But what does that mean in the real world? To some drivers, that means giving a cyclist as wide a berth as possible — for which we are eternally grateful.

Other drivers interpret that as any distance which allows them to pass a bike without actually hitting it. But they may not realize that getting caught in the slipstream of their vehicle can make us lose balance and possibly fall. Or that coming too close makes us instinctively swerve to the right, even if that means running off the roadway or into parked cars. And it’s always possible for a driver to misjudge the distance and actually sideswipe a rider.

So let’s take the guessing out it, and require a minimum of three feet distance when passing a bicycle. And make it clear that drivers are allowed to briefly cross lane or center dividers to pass safely.

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