Following the Safe Passing Vulnerable Road User Law Can Save Lives
Some 48,000 pedacyclists were injured and another 743 were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide in 2013.
In Houston, city streets are dotted with grim reminders of what can happen when motorists and cyclists meet – ghost bicycles, starkly painted white memorials to someone killed in a bike-motor vehicle crash.
Those deaths and injuries inspired City of Houston Council Members to create the Safe Passing Vulnerable Road User Law in 2014, making it illegal not to give bicyclists, pedestrians and other defenseless road users such as construction and utility workers wide berth.
In fact, drivers of cars or light trucks are required to give no less than three feet of space when passing a bicyclist – and failing to do so could result in a fine up to $500, according to City ordinance Chapter 45, Traffic, Article XII, Sec. 45-44.
For commercial vehicles, the legal safe zone is six feet, including mirrors and other projections.
“The law is designed to save lives and injuries,” explains Robert Rayburn, senior project manager for The Energy Corridor District. “It really comes down to just being patient, slowing down and remaining calm when approaching a bicyclist.”
Here are some driving safety tips and more details about the Safe Passing law:
- Give cyclists plenty of space and recognize they have the right to use the road;
- To pass, use lane not occupied by cyclists, if there are two or more marked lanes running in same direction;
- Motorists approaching a pedacyclist must wait until it is safe to pass;
- Only use your horn to avoid an accident, as the unexpected, loud sound could startle the bicyclist;
- Check mirror when opening vehicle door;
- When turning left, always yield the right-of-way to a cyclist who is approaching from the oncoming direction.
Prohibited vehicle actions include:
- Overtaking a vulnerable road user traveling in the same direction and subsequently make a turn in front of the vulnerable road user – unless the operator is safely clear of the vulnerable road user, taking into account the speed of the vulnerable road user and the braking requirements of the motor vehicle making the right-hand turn;
- Maneuvering the vehicle in a manner that is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a vulnerable road user or that threatens a vulnerable road user;
- Occupants of any motor vehicle may not knowingly throw or project any object or substance at or against a vulnerable road user or the user's animal, equipment, vehicle or conveyance.
Bicyclists must also heed other vulnerable road users:
- Whenever any person is riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, they must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing walkers, runners and others.
- Children must wear helmets if operating or riding upon a bicycle or any sidecar, trailer, child carrier, seat or other device attached to a bicycle.