Thursday, February 7, 2013
BWL Column: New Lee County initiative more than a statement: It's the law
News-Press Go Coastal Section
Feb. 7, 2013
Sharp-eyed motorists may have noticed county buses and vehicles – and the occasional fashionable bicyclist – sporting the slogan: “3 Feet Please – It’s The Law.”
This is a not-so-subtle way to remind drivers to allow at least 3 feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist on a roadway – and that this is not just a suggestion, but is required by state law (FS. 316.083, for those who want to see the actual wording).
This assumes two things:
• That bicyclists are recognized as vehicles having the same right to be on the road as anyone else (they are and they do).
• That any vehicle – from a bicycle to a tractor trailer – passing another must allow a minimum of 3 feet between them for safety (just common sense). You also have to pass that other vehicle safely, particularly on narrower roads (more common sense).
The “3 Feet Please” campaign was launched a few years back, when a concerned Florida bicyclist realized few motorists were aware of the law (passed in 2006) – and, as a result, too many bicyclists were getting hit, getting hurt, or just suffering too many close calls.
Why is passing too close a problem? Obviously, a 2-ton (or more) vehicle passing a 200-pound (or less) bicyclist is fraught with danger, not to mention the hazardous slipstream a large vehicle generates (if it can push small cars around, imagine what it does to a bicyclist). Mostly, it’s the courtesy one vehicle accords to another: If you wouldn’t pass another car that closely, why impinge on a bicyclist’s space?
Aside from enhancing drivers’ awareness, the 3 Feet Please effort serves an equally good purpose of reminding bicyclists that they have a right to be on the road – but with that right comes the requirement to ride responsibly and predictably as any other vehicle.
Riders across the state have noted that wearing the 3 Feet Please jerseys has made motorists more mindful of the bicyclist’s presence, cutting down on (but not eliminating) close calls. Raising that awareness was the motivation behind Lee County adding the 3 Feet Please stickers to Lee Tran buses, Lee County’s white fleet and Lee County Sheriff’s Office vehicles over the past 18 months – a welcome addition that should be applauded by all local riders.
Want to make 3 Feet Please your new fashion statement? Check out the campaign’s website – www.3feetplease.com – for jerseys, stickers, discussions and more.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.