Proposed Law Would Require Drivers to Pass Bicycles at 3-Foot Minimum Distance

(April 9, 2021) – Vehicles would have to pass bicycles at a minimum distance of 3 feet, if a bill introduced by Monroe County Legislators Rachel Barnhart (D-21) and Jackie Smith (R-2) becomes law. 

The announcement will be held at the Hungerford building, East Main Street, at 2:15 on Friday April 9, 2021 recognizing the introduction of “Carrie Ray’s 3-Foot Passing Law to Protect Bicyclists” which is named for the Clarkson woman struck and killed by a passing truck while she was riding her bicycle. Carrie Ray was a beloved teacher and avid cyclist.

“She was the person who was always looking out for everyone else around her. This is another way for her legacy to continue helping others and make our community safer. But it is up to us to be aware of our own responsibilities, to fend off distractions, and to safely share the road with others, regardless of the vehicle we are driving,” said her husband, Michael Ray.

During the years 2018 and 2019, state data indicates 321 bicyclists were injured in crashes with motor vehicles in Monroe County. We have also experienced several tragic fatalities in recent years.

This legislation would enact a 3-foot minimum requirement for vehicles passing bicyclists on roadways. Thirty-three states have passing laws with distance guidelines of 3 feet or more. New York’s law only requires a “safe distance” to pass bicyclists. Suffolk County’s Legislature, recognizing the need for a clear standard to ensure bicyclist safety, recently passed a 3-foot distance rule. 

“This law would provide much-needed clarity about what is a safe minimum distance to pass bicycles. We all have to share the road, and this law would raise awareness about how to do so safely. I am grateful to Michael Ray and Reconnect Rochester for working on this important legislation with us,” said Legislator Barnhart.

“Sadly, accidents – and tragedies – occur far too often between bicyclists and vehicles here in Monroe County. I am proud to join in introducing this important legislation which will bring awareness and education on how to safely share the road with cyclists, protecting all those who frequent our roadways. Bicyclists deserve to be able to travel confidently in their safety and I’m hopeful this legislation will help prevent avoidable risks,” said Legislator Smith.

“We know we have much more work to do to make it safer and more convenient to bike in our community. This three-foot passing law would make biking in Rochester even better by providing clarity to an ambiguous law,” said Jesse Peers, Cycling Coordinator for Reconnect Rochester. “We look forward to collaborating with Michael Ray, our friends at the Drive2bBetter campaign, and other community partners to make Monroe County’s streets safer and more accessible for all.”

The bill will be introduced on Tuesday and go before the Legislature’s Committee of the Whole later this month. If it passes the committee, there will be a public hearing scheduled in May before the bill goes before the Legislature for a vote.