Oklahoma City Weighs 3-Foot Passing Rule — For Cyclists, Not Drivers

A proposed law in Oklahoma City would crack down on cyclists who pass cars to closely. Seriously. Photo: Richard Masoner
A proposed law in Oklahoma City would crack down on cyclists who pass cars too closely. Seriously. Photo: Richard Masoner

Lots of places have three-foot passing laws requiring motorists to give cyclists a safe buffer while overtaking them. Now one Oklahoma City legislator, Eighth Ward City Council Member Pat Ryan, has come up with a new, passive-aggressive spin on the passing law.

Local elected officials will soon consider a piece of “safety” legislation that would require cyclists to give three feet when passing motorists. Network blog Bike OKC reports:

The measure has been approved by the Oklahoma City Traffic Commission and will go before City Council in January. The law currently states that drivers must provide 3 feet between their cars and cyclists when passing.

In addition to cyclists giving 3 feet to cars, the ordinance has additional language about where they should be riding. For example, the proposed ordinance states “every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right-hand side of the roadway as is safe.” This basically negates the signs posted around town allowing cyclists to use the full lane, which is the safer way to ride on street without a bike lane, and forces them to ride in the gutter. The ordinance also states that “persons riding bicycles shall not ride more than two abreast except on bicycle paths” and “when riding on roadways with designated bicycle lanes, the bicycle operator shall ride within the bicycle lane.”

According to the traffic commission, state statute says that cyclists are currently mandated to give 3 feet to all other vehicles when passing and the point of this ordinance is to align the municipal code with the state law and make it clear to cyclists what the law on passing is. (See the video of the meeting here and the comment at 28:30) However, I could not find any mention in the state statutes about bikes having to give 3 feet of clearance to automobiles. The only item in the proposed ordinance that is currently part of state statute is the article about “riding more than two abreast”.

So the commission’s stance that this ordinance is aligning the municipal code to the state law is incorrect.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Renew ATL says no one should be surprised that a huge engineering firm is recommending a dramatic increase in Georgia’s transportation spending. And Cyclelicious says California’s carbon tax has added just a couple of pennies to the cost of a gallon of gas and nobody seems very upset about it.

  • twk

    Does this imply bike lanes should be at least 6 feet wide?

  • Alex

    Cycling in NYC isn’t great, but thank God I don’t live in a place like Oklahoma City. What a backwater, head-up-its-own-ass town. I feel for anyone who bikes there. Both for their frustration and for their safety.

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