BC Needs a Safer Passing Law to Protect People Cycling & Walking

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Take Action: Email the Premier

A Safer Passing Law requiring drivers to pass people cycling and walking by at least 1.5m would make our roads safer and more comfortable for residents and visitors. If there is more than one lane for traffic in the same direction, the driver would have to have to pass in the lane next to the one a vulnerable road user is traveling in. 

While progress has been made, still relatively few roads in B.C. have bike lanes or shoulders and many don’t have sidewalks especially in rural areas forcing people to share the road with high speed motor vehicle traffic. While we strongly encourage governments to invest in protected bike lanes, paths and sidewalks, building them could take years. In the meantime, a Safer Passing Law will help improve safety.

Research elsewhere indicates that:

  • Close passes account for almost 1/3 of the threatening encounters people cycling have with those driving

  • Close passes are a particular problem in rural areas accounting for almost 50% of incidents

  • People who maintained an average of under 13km/h reported 3 times as many near misses per mile than those with an average of over 19km/h

  • Close passes are particularly a problem for women, who on average cycle more slowly than men, and experience a 50% higher rate of near misses than men

Enabling Education and Enforcement

The majority of drivers already pass people cycling and walking in a safe manner but the few that do not pose a potentially fatal risk to vulnerable road users. A Safe Passing law would help educate those that are unaware of how to pass safely and enable enforcement when needed.  

  • Police initiatives to tackle drivers who pass cyclists too closely could prevent up to 28% of the crashes that kill and seriously injure cyclists, according to an analysis of crash data

Clarity for People Driving, Cycling and Walking

A cyclist can do little to avoid a hit from behind, and an objective, easy to estimate minimum passing distance is better than a subjective standard of safe driving behavior for much the same reason that a maximum speed limit is.

Not only does the MVA not currently define a minimum passing distance for motorists overtaking cyclists, there is confusion as to whether the language in the Act even applies to passing cyclists. Section 157 states that an overtaking vehicle “must cause the vehicle to pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance.” Bicycles, however, are not “vehicles” by definition under the Act at s. 1. In any event, even where courts have accepted that motorists have an obligation to pass cyclists safely, what constitutes as a safe passing distance remains unclear.

A safe passing law would provide clarification that a motorist has a duty to leave a safe passing distance when passing a cyclist as well as definitive guidance on the minimum such distance. This avoids subjective assessments by motorist as to what constitutes a safe distance, and provide an objective standard for enforcement and education.

Elsewhere

Safe passing distances have been specified by over 27 jurisdictions in North America, including Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Following the death of rising cycling star Ellen Watters on a training ride in December 2016, the New Brunswick legislature is moving quickly to pass a safe passing distance law.

Nevada’s safe passing law requires passing inimmediate left lane, if there is more than one lane in the same direction.

Ottawa bike police are using a sonar device to  measure the distance between drivers and cyclists. As in Ontario and other jurisdictions, we also recommend an educational campaign be undertaken to ensure motorists are aware of the law before enforcement campaigns.

More Info

Safe Passing Submission

Safer Passing and Speeds Brief

Opening Animation: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute

 

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Let the Leaders Know You Want a Safer Passing Law
Tell them about your close calls or crashes caused by drivers passing too closely. Let them know that a safer passing law and enforcement would would help protect your family and friends.
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