BC Needs a Safer Passing Law to Protect People Cycling & Walking
Image: Roy Symons
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.
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.
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BC Cycling Coalition
Please join me in helping to make BC safer for people who cycle and walk. Send a email in support of a Safer Passing Law in BC requiring motor vehicles to pass those cycling and walking by at least 1.5m.
Let the political leaders know how a Safer Passing Law would make cycling safer and more enjoyable for you and your family and friends.
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Tell them about your experiences of riding on BC's roads and dealing with traffic. It only takes a minute or two and will really help make a difference!
Your generous contribution will help us mobilize the support needed to convince the BC Government to make cycling & walking safer for your family, friends and everyone else by adopting a 1.5m Safer Passing Law through:
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- A pledge so that drivers can commit to safer passing
- Meetings with politicians and officials
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