Word is out that a statewide Safe Passing Law is on the table here in Texas. Find out what it is and how you can help making happen.
Getting A Statewide Safe Passing Law in 2021
Friends are sharing info from BikeLaw.com that the recently convened Texas State Legislature has a statewide Safe Passing Law up for consideration this session. This is welcome news for Texas cyclists.
We're lucky here in Austin. Thanks in part to BikeAustin, the Capitol City is one of 23 localities to have a Safe Passing Ordinance. That's according to our statewide cycling advocacy group BikeTexas.
A statewide law regulating the minimum distance motorized vehicles must provide when passing cyclists or other “vulnerable” or “unprotected” road users has been up for debate before. And the state legislature has failed before to provide the modest protection of imposing liability on negligent drivers who violate a preordained minimum passing distance rule. In 2015 and 2019 both, bills were introduced that would have established a minimum safe passing distance and imposed liability for those who violated the law. Those bills dies before they could become law.
Well, it seems a statewide Safe Passing Law in Texas is again up for consideration. It would protect vulnerable road users by way of establishing a standard safe passing distance for cars of 3 feet (6 feet for larger vehicles like commercial trucks and busses), would prohibit “right hooks”—where vehicles turn right dangerously in front of a vulnerable road user—and would require yielding to vulnerable road users when making a left turn at an intersection. Vulnerable road users are, as you might guess, those most likely to be at risk from being struck by a moving vehicle and generally include pedestrians, runners, physically disabled persons, children, skaters, emergency and construction workers, and persons operating a bicycle, motorcycle, or unprotected farm equipment, to name a few.
A violation of the law would allow for the imposition of fines, but perhaps more importantly violations would help to establish liability in those instances where cyclists or other vulnerable road users suffer bodily harm or property damage, useful when the injured party looks to seek civil damages as the result of a crash stemming from a violation of the Safe Passing Law.
As Bike Law notes “35 states have passed 3-foot passing laws protecting bicyclists, and Texas currently sits in the pool of 15 states that does not define a safe passing distance, which means it’s impossible to legally define when someone cuts it too close.” Texas needs this law.
You can help see a statewide Safe Passing Law come to life by letting your state representatives know you support such a measure. You can find your Texas House Rep right here. On each representative’s page is a blue email button. Click that and let them know you support the safe passing measure, HB554. According to Bike Law:
“While it’s best to type in your own thoughts, you can also copy and paste any of the suggested points:
- As a member of the community, I support HB554 and believe it will help provide a safer roadway situation by calling attention to the minimal amount of space that any driver should leave when passing a bicyclist.
- As a bicyclist, I have been unsafely passed by a car or truck. Texas has fallen behind the other 35 states that have a safe passing law for people on bikes. Therefore, I urge you to support HB554 so that people who ride bikes in Texas have additional protections from unsafe drivers.
- As a member of a bicycling club, I often ride my bike on Texas roads. In the past, I have had one or more friends hit by a car because the driver did not leave enough room when passing. Texas does not currently have a statewide bill such as HB554, which I ask you to support to vote in favor of passing.
- As an owner/employee of a bike shop, I have seen the rise in bicycling this year because of the COVID pandemic. More people and families are now riding outdoors and on Texas roadways. I support HB554 and believe that it will call attention to the physical space that should be left when a driver is passing someone riding a bicycle.”
The simple step of letting your representatives know that you support a statewide Safe Passing Law in Texas could be the key to finally getting this important piece of legislation passed for all Texans.