this is the next in an occasional series on laws governing bicycle use in Arizona
In the last installment, we noted that a bicyclist is subject to the rights and responsibilities of a “driver of a vehicle”, as well as some special rules which apply specifically to bicyclists; and that there were important legal distinctions between the driver of a motor vehicle and a bicyclist. Today we examine a special responsibility applicable only to the driver of a motor vehicle — the duty to overtake a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction not only safely, but with a minimum of three feet of clearance.
The general rule for a driver overtaking another vehicle is as follows:
A special rule was created by bicyclist advocates in 2000, HB2625, to bring attention to overtaking, allow for increased fines for violators, and to provide for additional educational opportunities. The rule applies only to the driver of a motor vehicle when overtaking a bicyclist, the new statute reads, in full:
Note that the minimum safe distance of not less than three feet, subsection A, applies on all streets in Arizona. Streets come in a wide variety of configurations, most streets are divided into lanes, but others are not, some have shoulders, or no shoulders, paved or unpaved, some have designated bicycle lanes, many do not. The minimum safe distance of not less than three feet applies on all streets in all configurations regardless of the position of the bicycle to be overtaken.
On many streets with lanes, the lane is not wide enough to safely share side-by-side with a vehicle and the bicycle. Drivers of vehicles in this situation will need to change lanes, at least partially, in order to pass safely and legally. Since the adjacent lane must be clear to move even partially into it, the Coalition encourages drivers to make a full lane change when passing, the same as when passing another vehicle.
There is a misunderstanding that the minimum safe distance of not less than three feet does not apply on streets with designated bike lanes; this is simply not true. Subsection C states that the enhanced fines of subsection B do not apply if a bicyclist is struck while riding outside of a “passable” designated bicycle lane. It has no relevance to Subsection A. Subsection A always applies.
Note that Subsection C is presumably poorly drafted in that it does not allow for a bicyclist who is legally turning left to be “protected” by subsection B — although an overtaking motorist is still, as always, required observe the minimum safe clearances specified in subsection A.
In addition to the minimum three foot passing law, HB2625 also added a new directive to include “those practices and laws relating to bicycles” (underlined below) and as a result ADOT/MVD has added a question relating to bicycles to the Arizona’s drivers license test