Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Virginians – 3 Feet to Pass Needs Your Support

Friends in Virginia – I would consider it a great personal favor if you could take the time to 1) act on this yourself, and 2) pass this along to your friends. We’ve got a real shot at making this happen. It’s not a magic bullet that will make everything better, but it’s a *substantial* step forward in the effort to make roads a safe place for all users.  This isn’t national politics where we are but one of a million voices on an issue – your call or email to a Delegate *will* make a difference.  Just last week a chorus of voices helped bring a critical vote to our side.  We can do it again.

From FABB:

Herndon & Fairfax residents — write to Representatives Rust, Hugo & Comstock about SB 928 (increasing min. passing distance to 3′ for motorists passing bicycles, and adds bicycles to the list of vehicles that a motorist shall not follow more closely than is reasonable). It may be heard in committee as early as tomorrow morning, Feb. 10. See attached [the VBF link below] for easy link for writing to your reps.

From the Virginia Bike Federation:

As we reported yesterday, SB 928, the three feet passing bill, was passedunanimously by the Senate on Monday. It’s now headed to the House, where it must get through committee and then a full House vote.

This bill increases the minimum passing distance from 2′ to 3′ for motorists passing bicycles, and adds bicycles to the list of vehicles that a motorist shall not follow more closely than is reasonable (prohibits aggressive tailgating of bicycles).

It may be heard in committee as early as Thursday morning, Feb. 10; or it could be heard by the full Transportation Committee next Tuesday morning, Feb. 15.

Please write to your delegates now, and ask them to support SB 928 — especially if your delegate is one of the committee members listed below.

The Who’s My Legislator page will tell you who your delegate is.

BikeWalk Virginia has posted an alert too, along with a sample letter.


May, Joe T. /Loudon 804 698-1033

Vice Chair:

Oder, G. Glenn/Newport News — PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT


Carrico, Charles W., Sr. /Galax 804 698-1005

Cosgrove, John A./Chesapeake 804 698-1078

Rust, Thomas Davis/Herndon 804 698-1086

Hugo, Timothy D./Fairfax 804 698-1040 delthugo@house.virginia.gov

Scott, Edward T./Culpeper 804 698-1030

Tata, Robert/VaBeach 804 698-1085 delbtata@house.virginia.gov

Villanueva, Ronald A./VaBeach 804 698-1021

Comstock, Barbara J./Fairfax 804 698-1034

Garrett, T. Scott/Lynchburg 804 698-1023

Cox, John A./Hanover 804 698-1055

Cleaveland, William H./Roanoke 804 698-1017

Habeeb, Gregory D.

Ward, Jeion A./Hampton 804 698-1092

Ebbin, Adam P./Arlington 804 698-1049

BaCote, Mamye E./Newport News 804 698-1095

Brink, Robert H./Arlington 804 698-1048

Toscano, David J./Charlottesville 804 698-1057

McQuinn, Delores L./Richmond 804 698-1070

Carr, Betsy B./Richmond 804 698-1069

Filler-Corn, Eileen/Fairfax 804 698-1041


Marking St. Reagan’s 100th


The Kind of Journalism I’d Like To See


  1. This is a silly, unenforceable bill. Not only can drivers not tell if they are thirty-six inches away, neither can police. The cops already have too many laws to enforce. We should be taking away power from them to foul-up our lives, not giving them more ways to screw us.

    I have never heard of anyone who died on a bike because someone tried to pass too closely. Not that it hasn’t happened. It just seems to be among the more rare causes of bike-auto collisions. A more frequent cause is where the driver pulls slightly ahead of the rider, then quickly turns, cutting the rider off and forcing the rider to slam on the brakes. Another favorite, and one that got one of my brothers (although not fatally) was opening the car door into an on-coming cyclist.

    The underlying issue is an effort to improve cycling safety, which is laudable, but let us be ruled by good research and rational thinking on such matters. Two feet versus three feet is not going to make a difference with respect to the cause of most cycling fatalities.

    Better spacial awareness by cyclists, coupled with defensive riding will do far more to reduce bike crashes than more nanny-state laws like this one that would require cops to run around with yard sticks.

  2. MB

    I can always count on you, Tyler, to come up with some purposely obtuse objection to most anything. Head over to FABB’s explanation of the issue, and take specific note of this:

    This bill is an effort to help educate Motor Vehicle drivers to pass bicyclists with a wider margin of error and thereby reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries to cyclists. Current code says Pass by Two Feet, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.

    11 cyclists were fatally struck by Motor Vehicles in 2009 in Virginia, most of whom were hit from behind. Several were high profile cases: Daniel Hersh in VA Beach, Kevin Flock in Dinwiddie county, Dr. Joe Miranda from Lynchburg, all of whom were hit from behind. 11 were also fatally struck in 2010, but we do not yet have the details on their accidents.

    In the DC area alone last year, there were at least three cyclists struck from behind and killed: Natasha Pettigrew, Stan Miller, and David Williams.

    I’ve got plenty of research and rational thinking on bike safety. As I said above, Three Feet to Pass isn’t going to magically make everyone safer, but it *is* an important step forward. Your “nanny state” characterization is nothing short of ridiculous. No cops will be running around with yard sticks, as you well know. A yard stick very well may come into play the next time a driver who has killed a cyclist hauls out the old “they swerved in front of me!” BS, and a jury is asked to believe that a cyclist suddenly lept a whole yard to her left on a bike.

  3. I am not disagreeing with you with regard to the premise that more can be done to help cyclists ride more safely.

    The data does not point to a significant positive effect by going from a two foot pass to a three.

    The principle objection that I have heard from legislators is that motorists will swerve into oncoming traffic; but again, I think that is just conjecture.

    The real gains in safety are to be had in improved cyclist spacial awareness. We could also get some gains from including more driver education about cyclists in our driver licensing/renewal program.

    I have survived four collisions with cars, two while running, one on roller blades and one while cycling, where I flew over the top of the car and landed on the street right next to a telephone pole. My worst collision was when my former racing team, Cello Pacific, all ran me over during a Crit held at the Ziggurat in Newport Beach.

  4. Thanks for writing your article on the Patch (I was unable to leave a comment there, so I came here).

    You make a great point about personalizing things. Often when I catch up and try to talk to a motorist who has passed too closely, I can see how uncomfortable they get. They never expected to have to interact with me on a personal level. They’re inside their climate-controlled box, listening to the radio or chatting on the cellphone, very much detached from what’s happening on the road. I think an important thing for cyclists to do, when possible, is to make eye contact with drivers. Make sure they see you and know that you see them. I find that after the initial eye contact, there will often be a pleasant negotiation of the road. For example, at a 4-way stop, the motorist might wave and let me go first, even though I arrived after them. And even if that doesn’t happen, at least I know that they see me.

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