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Why New York needs a safe passing law

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While the streets of New York are busy with various commuters, cyclists navigating the roads still have an expectation that they can ride to their destination safely. Unfortunately, New York’s laws could do a much better job protecting them.

Road sharing in New York is governed by a general “safe distance” passing requirement. Any vehicle hoping to overtake a bicycle is directed to pass to the left “at a safe distance until safely thereof.”

What is a safe distance?

This vague description should be a concern to cyclists. Because the language of the law is vague, a safe distance is left to the interpretation of the vehicle operator, and there is no way to know if their judgment is wrong until an accident occurs.

When it comes to bicycle fatalities, the most common type of accident that leads to a cyclist’s death is one where a motorist was attempting to overtake the bicyclist (28 percent). The crash specifics may change from accident to accident and the majority of accidents (72 percent) are caused by other means, but there is still cause for concern.

The League of American Cyclists has stated that without a clear safe distance law that makes it illegal for vehicles to overtake a bicycle unsafely, there is no way to enforce safety clearly to ensure cyclist protection. The League recommends a minimum of three feet for passing laws to properly address safety.

Hopefully New York will better define their safe passing requirements to give peace of mind to cyclists and motorists alike. With clear stipulations in place, all kinds of commuters can better inform themselves about best safety practices and make smart decisions on the road.

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