Recently, Local Motion got an inquiry from a contact at GMT (formerly CCTA) about the four-foot passing law. They said a driver had asked why exactly it was necessary to give a minimum of four feet of clearance when passing someone on a bike. We were so glad they asked! GMT puts a major emphasis on safety, and bike-bus interactions are an area where special conditions apply. Here's what we told them about why four feet is so important:
- It is difficult to impossible to ride a bike in a completely straight line. Balancing on a bike requires some degree of wavering, especially while going slowly or uphill. So you can't expect that a bike rider will stay exactly where they are.
- Bicycling is necessarily unpredictable. Road shoulders are full of broken glass, potholes, sand, and so on. People on bikes have to swerve sometimes. Ideally, they'll look over their shoulder before swerving. But sometimes they forget, or the hazard is so imminent that they can't. You have to give them enough space to account for this.
- Bicyclists are vulnerable. We're talking about a human life here. They are in a completely different category in terms of the possible consequences of a mistake than an inanimate object. You get too close to a garbage truck and you scrape up your bus. You get too close to a bicyclist and you kill someone.
Local Motion is proud to be working with GMT to design and lead a training for bus drivers later this summer on how to drive safely around bicyclists. We'll also be calling on their expertise about buses to bring back useful info to the bike community about how to bike safely around buses. Stay tuned!