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HomeSafe Passing Law

Pass Five-Foot Safe Passing Ordinances
in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties

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Why We Need This Law
Why We Need This Law
Why Should We Do This?
Michigan bicyclists face significant risks from motorists passing too closely, even when riding "far to the right" as stated in state law (Michigan Vehicle Code Section 257.660a).
•    The most common type (55 percent ) [PDF page 139/Report page 111]  of bicycle/auto crashes is when a bicyclist was “going straight ahead” prior to a crash.
•    Large vehicles produce strong air currents and can knock cyclists off course if they pass too closely. This is especially dangerous given the bad conditions of our area’s roads.
•    Many motorists are unaware of the dangers posed by their actions. Others intentionally pass closely to intimidate bicyclists.

Doesn’t State Law Cover This Already?
The language is very unclear.  Section 257.636 of the Michigan Vehicle Code states:

“The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of that vehicle, and when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.”

The current “safe distance” language is left to the perspective of the motorist. It is also open to interpretation for law enforcement (and therefore difficult to put into effect). The "safe distance” language does not provide a clearly defined standard for patrol officers to use.

Moreover, a bicycle is not defined as a “vehicle” in Michigan law. A bicyclist has  “all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” Therefore, it is open to interpretation if bicyclists are protected under current law.
Michigan is one of eleven states that have no specific law regarding passing a bicyclist. Despite the deaths of cyclists and urgings from the bicycling community, the State Legislature has not enacted a Safe Passing law.

Should Bicycles Be On The Road At All?
Bicycles and other types of vehicles can be on the road, says Section 257.657 of the Michigan Vehicle Code:

“Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle or commercial quadricycle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle under this chapter, except for special regulations in this article and except for the provisions of this chapter that by their nature do not apply.”

What Will Five-Foot Passing Ordinances Do?
•    Set the legal standard for "safe distance”
•    Provide clear guidance to motorists, bicyclists and law enforcement, thus reducing confusion and frustration
•    Help reduce bicyclist injuries and deaths
•    Promote a mutual respect for motorists and cyclists on streets and roads
•    Would allow motorists to cross a center line, including a double yellow line, to safely pass a bicyclist.

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Model Law
Model Law
Draft #1
Model Five Foot Safe Passing Ordinance
Proposed by the Tri-County Bicycle Association

The following should be added to a jurisdiction’s traffic code:
1.    The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a five-foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.  
2.    The driver of a motor vehicle, when passing a pedestrian on the roadway, shall pass the pedestrian at a safe distance, which shall be at least a five-foot separation between the side of the vehicle nearest the pedestrian and the side of the pedestrian nearest the vehicle.
3.    The driver of a motor vehicle, when passing a person in a wheelchair on the roadway, shall pass the person at a safe distance, which shall be at least a five-foot separation between the side of the vehicle nearest the wheelchair and the side of the wheelchair nearest the vehicle.
4.    The driver of a motor vehicle may drive to the left of the center of a roadway, including when a no passing zone is marked, to pass a person operating a bicycle only if the roadway to the left of the center is unobstructed for a sufficient distance to permit the driver to pass the person operating the bicycle safely and avoid interference with oncoming traffic. This subsection does not authorize driving on the left side of the center of the roadway when otherwise prohibited by local ordinance or state law.

State Law reference— Similar provision,  Michigan Vehicle Code. Section 257.634

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Press Releases
Press Release

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What's Next
What's Next

It is now up to local jurisdictions to do what the State Legislature has failed to do: pass safe passing ordinances that promote road safety. Kalamazoo, Portage, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Oshtemo Township, Norton Shores and Battle Creek have enacted such ordinances.

The Tri-County Bicycle Association Advocacy Committee’s (TCBA) major goal for 2017 is to engage local governments in Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Counties to pass Five Foot Safe Passing ordinances. By working with residents of communities, we can take a big step in helping to protect bicyclists in the Tri-County area.

TCBA will initially be working with the Associated Students of MSU to get East Lansing an ordinance passed:  State News Article. Some clarifications to this article:

  • The allowing of motorists to cross a double line is incorporated in our model law. It is not a separate law
  • As far as informing motorists about, TCBA doesn't have the money nor the authority to put up new road signs. Also, we will work with jurisdictions about strategies to educate drivers and cyclists.

We welcome people to join us. If you are interested, please contact Mike Unsworth at or (517) 882-3700.

TCBA will continue to support the League of Michigan Bicyclists in getting a state-wide law. Passage of local Safe Passing ordinances will demonstrate to our legislators that there is support for such safety measures.

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