Comments on the 3 Foot Passing Law

A couple of weeks ago, a private member’s bill was introduced by NDP Cheri DiNovo in Ottawa detailing the need for a province wide enforcement of the “3 Foot Passing Law”. The by-law would require leaving at least three feet of space between a car and a bike while passing. We posted about it on last week here.

Of course, the bill was met with opposition. Here in the city, someone wrote a letter to the editor of the Star, claiming that following this rule would be impossible to enforce and follow. Some choice phrases from the letter are…

Certainly, the roads have become more congested here, and it makes no sense that Wynne would throw her support behind a bill that will be impossible to enforce…

Move over three feet on most streets to accommodate a bike and you’ll either cut off a vehicle travelling parallel, or end up swerving into oncoming traffic. Slow to a crawl so a bike can pass and you’ll cause a chain reaction of fender benders. It’s an accident waiting to happen…

Other streets don’t lend themselves to a makeover, and they simply should not be used by cyclists…

If this bill passes, it will put drivers in a position where they have no choice but to break the law…

They must not ride on streets that are too tight to simultaneously accommodate vehicles and bikes. It’s dangerous and foolish to try…

Regular bikewindsor reader Luke Weiler wrote a response to the Star; continue reading to find out what he said…

“In the May 27th edition of the Windsor Star, an unsigned editorial
entitled “Bike safety” takes issue with the proposed “3-foot rule”.

The editorial makes a number of wild and poorly considered claims,
stating that it is physically impossible to pass a cyclist without
sideswiping other cars, swerving into oncoming traffic, or slowing to
a crawl.

This assertion is preposterous, and it flies in the face of the lived
experiences of cyclists and motorists who manage to share the roads
every day in cities across Canada. Without the benefit of any special
training, dozens of cars safely pass my bicycle each day. When I find
myself behind the wheel, I somehow do the same. There is nothing
irrational or particularly difficult about the idea of imposing the
three-foot safety buffer that most drivers already follow

By far, however, the worse sentence of the editorial is its last,
which reads, “[Cyclists] must not ride on streets that are too tight
to simultaneously accommodate vehicles and bikes. It’s dangerous and
foolish to try.”

This infuriating claim is not only contrary to our highway traffic
laws, but it seeks to disenfranchise every road user who does not
travel by car. Roads are paid for by taxes from the public purse, and
we are all entitled to the use of them. In claiming that cyclists are
being “dangerous and foolish”, the editorial writer takes the blame
from the reckless drivers who don’t pass in a safe fashion – as they
are required to do by law – and puts it on cyclists for their choice
of route.

What a gross and insulting example of blaming the victim.”

Great work Luke… hopefully this will open up Windsorite’s eyes to the ACTUAL reality. Bikes belong on the road. Any road. Thanks for your passion, and your stellar writing.

4 thoughts on “Comments on the 3 Foot Passing Law”

  1. Well stated, Luke. I couldn’t agree more.

    I was pondering this editorial this afternoon as I rode along Riverside Drive East. It’s really only the auto commuters from further east who have little to gain from a more scenic and slower drive. I imagine some of the residents of that section of the drive tend to curse cyclists when they slow the traffic down, even though they themselves, just as the City, would prefer lower traffic volumes and less speed. However, the idea of cyclists as human traffic calmers is somehow seldom talked about.

    Anybody complaining that the 3-foot rule would lead to more accidents is simply anti-cyclist, whether they realize it or not. It’s dangerous for cars to pass cyclists with less clearance, and it’s silly when they go all the way across the median, as so many drivers do. The proposed law sounds like a commonsense measure to me. And as for cyclists not being welcome on certain stretches of road (in spite of what the law says), perhaps those drivers have never thought about safe and convenient alternatives for cyclists. In the case of Riverside Drive, there aren’t any good alternative routes. Personally, I would much prefer to ride my bike along trails that are physically separated from the road, and I would be all over any city plans to build more of them. It’s too bad that the only people talking about this seem to be the small group of cyclists. The cause would be so much stronger if motorists spoke up for safe bike lanes and trails. Not only would the 3 foot clearance be much less of an issue, but everyone could enjoy a more attractive route as well.

  2. I wrote a letter to the editor about this, but I don’t think it was published. I’m fairly sure that the Share The Road Coalition also wrote the star a letter.

  3. The WBC is also replying. I guess the editorial was written by someone on staff at the Windsor Star, which I find really weird.

  4. While I have been unable to find my letter on the Windsor Star online, a colleague of mine has informed me that it was in the paper

    I just hope it changes some attitudes. The editorial was obviously written by someone who has no idea of what it feels like to try and move from place to place by bicycle.

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