Joe Stafford of Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes is reporting that Governor Corbett has signed HB170 on Thursday which does much to clarify and codify what drivers must do to safely pass a bicyclist. According to language directly from the new law:
The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a pedalcycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the pedalcycle within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed (emphasis mine).Not only does this law require more from drivers than the three foot minimum required in many other state's "safe passing" laws but PA's new law also requires drivers to reduce their speed to what must assumed to be less than the posted speed limit when passing a cyclist.
But wait! There's more!
Besides this, the law clarifies that drivers can cross the double yellow line to pass cyclists as long as it is safe and the overtaking driver yields to all oncoming traffic. This is something that is conspicuously absent from New Jersey's vehicle code which calls into question the technical legality of crossing a double yellow line to pass not only cyclists but also slow moving vehicles like farm tractors and construction equipment.
Also, the new law states that drivers cannot interfer with cyclists riding within the law:
No turn by a driver of a motor vehicle shall interfere with a pedalcycle proceeding straight while operating in accordance with Chapter 35.This is essential a no "right-hook" law. Way to go PA!
Finally, this new law allows would seem to allow cyclists the full use of a lane on a road that is no more than one lane in each direction. This legal privilege comes with the very reasonable caveat that cyclists "shall use reasonable efforts so as not to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." For the protections and privileges this new law provides it reasonable to allow cars to pass when reasonable and safe to do so.
New Jersey could learn a lot from the recent Bicycle Safe Passing Laws passed in Delaware (move over language and this week clarifications with regards to shoulder and right-turn-only lanes) and now Pennsylvania. The language of the current "safe passing" bill floating around the New Jersey Legislature is meek at best and might make matters worse as argued by me (1 & 2) in this blog and doesn't clarify issues like passing cyclists in no passing zones.