New Suffolk County law establishes a ‘safe distance’ between bikes and cars
Suffolk County became the first New York County to apply a law designating three feet as a safe distance for motorists to overtake cyclists on the road.
Cyclists and lawmakers have said the state’s motor traffic law is ambiguous in its definition of a “safe distance,” making issuance of violations more difficult. Violations of the new county law can result in fines of $ 225 for the first offense and up to $ 425 for subsequent offenses. Suffolk County lawmaker Kara Hahn, the law’s sponsor, said its passage was a milestone for the state.
“We want to make the roads safe for all vulnerable users, and quite frankly, for drivers and cars as well,” Hahn said. “If people know they have to give a cyclist three feet, everyone will be safe.”
Daniel Flanzig, personal injury attorney and board member of the New York Bicycle Coalition, described the law as a “game changer” for enforceability and compliance.
“When we talk about any other legislation affecting cyclists, the only request, for the coalition when we did the polls, was absolutely ‘why doesn’t the state have this law? “” Said Flanzig.
Thirty-three US states designate a distance of at least three feet between drivers and cyclists. Monroe County will be the second New York county to consider the law. “The idea is to get the wave going across the state,” Flanzig said.
Paul Miklean, a member of the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association, said he hopes the law will make drivers think more seriously about the safety of cyclists.
“Getting some sort of exposure on cyclists, and the fact that there is a law that says you have to stay three feet, versus how casually drivers very often view cyclists,” Miklean said. “We are out of their mind. We are not part of their state of mind. So it’s a good thing to get it.
Hal Tarry, a member of the New York Bicycle Coalition, said he was hit a few years ago by a driver while riding a bicycle. The bike relaxes him, but that calm is broken when a motorist gets too close.
“A lot of times they see you, but they just see a bike and it’s common, so they forget about it and they go back to whatever they were thinking about and they don’t really see you anymore,” Tarry said. “Sometimes they drift a bit and come closer.”
The law was signed at the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, a Bed & Breakfast in Stony Brook that offers bike rentals and tours nearby.
“A lot of times when you are on the road there are obstacles in the road and you will have to avoid something, whether it is gravel or a grate, or glass or a sidewalk,” said Elyse Buckman, one. from the owners of Stony Brookside. “So allowing all three feet would keep them safe and keep our riders aware of what the rider needs because everyone really has to share the road.