When the state Legislature passed a law proposed by state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, about a year ago requiring motorists to give bicyclists 4-feet of leeway when passing on the road, I was happy.
And skeptical that it would make much difference.
As a regular cyclist, I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve had with drivers passing me with just inches to spare — often at high speed.
I used to get angry. Why can’t they just slow down for a few seconds and wait for a place to pass where they can move over a bit and go by safely?
I mean, I ride as far to the right as possible. I always wear bright, visible clothing. I follow the road rules. Why can’t motorists just be considerate? Some of them actually seem angry about cyclists — which I just don’t understand.
Anyway, I thought the new four-foot rule was a good idea. But would it change drivers’ habits? And would it be enforced?
Doubtful, I thought.
And a couple of weeks ago, I got some first-hand proof.
I was riding on a Sunday morning on a narrow country road in York County with hardly any shoulder. (Are they any other kind in this county?)
A truck blew by me at full speed just a few inches from my left handlebar. Didn’t slow down. Didn’t move over an inch — though there was no oncoming traffic in the opposite lane. It was one of those big farm trucks, the kind with four tires on the rear axle, driven by a bulbous guy who looked like he needed four tires on the rear just to support his bulk.
And right behind the truck was — yes, a police car!
“Ah, he’s gonna nail that guy!” I thought.
Both vehicles just disappeared around a bend.
Well, maybe he’ll pull him over down the road a piece, I thought, where it would be safer. But I went another few miles on that road, which had no turnoffs other than driveways, and never came across a traffic stop.
So … what good is this law if the police aren’t going to enforce it?
I called Rep. Miller and asked if he had any data on how many motorists had been cited so far, and he said he’d heard of one or two citations, but didn’t have any hard statistics. I told him my story, and he said he never expected many citations — the idea was mainly to raise awareness of the need to give cyclists some leeway on the road.
I understand. And that’s kind of what I expected, too.
But I also think police should actually enforce violations WHEN THEY HAPPEN RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM.
Here’s hoping this spring, as riding season gets underway, local police chiefs will remind their officers about this new law direct them to enforce it.