Bicycle Safety Laws For Car Drivers in the U.S.

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When driving near bicyclists, extra safety precautions are required to help reduce the risk of accidents and help ensure everyone gets to their destination safely.

Some general rules-of-the-road can apply when driving around a bicyclist, regardless of what state you are in, and include:

  • Provide a “buffer zone” or safe-passing space around a cyclist
  • Never drive in a marked bicycle lane for any reason
  • Share the road when no bicycle lane is apparent
  • Treat a bicyclist on the road as you would another vehicle - with caution and respect
  • Pay attention to hand signals for turning, slowing, and stopping

Each state has some specific rules regarding driving around bicyclists. According to the NCSL of State Legislators, 38 states have laws specific to safe-passing distances around cyclists, while the remaining states include cyclists with pedestrians and “other road users.” To ensure everyone’s safety, be aware of the specific rules of the road wherever you plan to drive.

Below are summaries regarding the “safe-passing distances” for each state (please note that laws and regulations change often and you should always check directly with each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the most current information):

Alabama

  • This Alabama law defines, for the purpose of a vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle, a safe distance to mean not less than 3 feet on a road with a marked bicycle lane or a road without a marked bicycle lane if posted speed limit is 45 mph or less and the roadway does not have a double yellow line separating cars from oncoming traffic, indicating a no passing zone. In addition, cyclists must ride within 2 feet of the right shoulder of the road.

Alaska

  • Alaska does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Arizona

  • Arizona state law requires due care in leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and a bicycle of not less than 3 feet of space until the vehicle has safely passed the cyclist.

Arkansas

  • Arkansas state law requires due care in leaving a safe distance between a motor vehicle and a bicycle of not less than 3 feet of space until the vehicle has safely passed the cyclist.

California

  • A driver of a motor vehicle in California cannot overtake or pass a bicycle heading in the same direction on the road at a distance of less than 3 feet between any part of the vehicle and the bicycle, or its operator, until it has safely and completely overtaken the bicyclist.

Colorado

  • In Colorado, drivers must allow a bicyclist at least 3 feet between the right side of the motor vehicle and the left side of the bicyclist, including mirrors and other items projecting outward.

Connecticut

  • Drivers in Connecticut must leave a “safe distance” of not less than 3 feet of space when a driver overtakes and passes a bicyclist.

Delaware

  • Drivers must proceed with caution in Delaware, slowing to a safe passing speed, leaving a reasonable amount of space (3 feet) while passing a bicyclist.

Florida

  • Florida drivers must pass a bicycle, or other non-motorized vehicle, with no less than 3 feet of space between the vehicle and bicycle/non-motorized vehicle.

Georgia

  • In Georgia, drivers must leave a safe distance between a motor vehicle and bicycle, maintaining a safe distance of no less than 3 feet until the motor vehicle has overtaken the bicyclist.

Hawaii

  • Hawaii does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Idaho

  • Idaho does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Illinois

  • Drivers should leave a safe distance in Illinois between the motor vehicle and bicyclist of no less than 3 feet, and must maintain the safe distance until they safely pass or overtake the bicyclist.

Indiana

  • Indiana does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Iowa

  • Iowa does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Kansas

  • In Kansas, drivers must pass to the left a bicyclist with no less than 3 feet and not drive to the right side of the road until the vehicle has safely overtaken the bicyclist.

Kentucky

  • Kentucky does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Louisiana

  • When driving in Louisiana, drivers should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Maine

  • Drivers in Maine should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space.

Maryland

  • Drivers in Maryland should never pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space.

Massachusetts

  • If it is not possible for a driver to overtake a bicycle, or other vehicle, at a safe distance in the same lane, if it is safe to do so the overtaking vehicle should use all or part of an adjacent lane or wait until a safe opportunity to do so.

Michigan

  • Michigan does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Minnesota

  • When driving in Minnesota, drivers should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Mississippi

  • Drivers in Mississippi should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Missouri

  • When driving in Missouri, drivers should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Montana

  • Overtake and a pass a person or bicyclist in Montana only when the driver can safely do so without endangering the bicyclist.

Nebraska

  • In Nebraska, the driver of a vehicle overtaking or passing a bicycle heading the same direction must exercise due caution, which includes (and is not limited to) leaving a safe distance of no less than 3 feet and maintaining the space until safely past the bicyclist.

Nevada

  • Drivers in Nevada should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

New Hampshire

  • When in New Hampshire, drivers must leave a reasonable and prudent space between the motor vehicle and bicyclist. The space is based on speed traveled, with 3 feet reasonable and prudent at 30 mph or less, adding one foot of clearance for every additional 10 mph above 30 mph.

New Jersey

  • New Jersey does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

New Mexico

  • New Mexico does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

New York * When overtaking a bicycle from behind proceeding in the same direction, drivers in New York must pass to the left of a bicycle at a “safe distance” until safely past and clear.

North Carolina

  • In North Carolina, the driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction must pass with at least 2 feet of space and cannot drive to the right side of the road again until safely past the vehicle. In a no-pass zone, a motorist can pass a bicyclist if the slower moving vehicle is a bicycle or a moped; the slower vehicle is proceeding in the same direction as the faster moving vehicle; the driver of the fast moving vehicle either provides 4 feet of space (or more) or completely enters the left lane of a highway; the slower vehicle is not making a left-hand turn or signaling a left-hand turn; and finally the driver of the vehicle follows all other applicable rules, laws, and regulations.

North Dakota

  • North Dakota does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Ohio

  • Ohio does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Oklahoma

  • Drivers in Oklahoma should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Oregon

  • When driving in Oregon at speeds less than 35 mph, a “safe distance” sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle is required, should the cyclist fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.

Pennsylvania

  • In Pennsylvania, drivers must pass to the left of a bicycle (pedalcycle) with no less than 4 feet of space and slow to a safe passing speed.

Rhode Island

  • Drivers in Rhode Island, at speeds less than 15 mph must use a “safe distance” to pass a bicyclist that would prevent contact with the person on the bicycle if they were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.

South Carolina

  • Drivers in South Carolina should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

South Dakota

  • If overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction in South Dakota, the driver must allow a minimum of 3 foot between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including mirrors or other objects, and the left side of the bicycle if the posted limit is 35 mph or less and a minimum of 6 feet of space if the posted limit is 35 mph or more. A driver passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may partially cross the highway centerline between two lanes of travel in the same direction if it can be performed safely. The driver should maintain that separation until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

Tennessee

  • Drivers in Tennessee should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Texas

  • Texas does not have state laws specifically related to driving around cyclists. Drivers are urged to use due caution.

Utah

  • May not knowingly, unintentionally, or recklessly operate a vehicle within 3 feet of a moving bicycle. “Safe distance” must be maintained until past the bicycle.

Vermont

  • In Vermont, drivers must exercise “due care” or increase clearance to pass a “vulnerable user” (including bicylists) safely.

Virginia

  • Drivers in Virginia should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Washington

  • In Washington, drivers approaching a pedestrian or bicycle on the roadway, right-hand shoulder, or bicycle lane must pass to the left at a “safe distance” to avoid contact with a bicyclist, and cannot drive to the right side of the roadway until safely past bicyclist.

Washington, D.C.

  • Drivers in the District of Columbia must use due care and leave a “safe distance” of no less than 3 feet when passing or overtaking a bicyclist.

West Virginia

  • In West Virginia, drivers approaching a pedestrian or bicycle on the roadway, right-hand shoulder, or bicycle lane must pass to the left side at a “safe distance” to avoid contact with a bicyclist, and cannot drive to the right side of the roadway until safely past bicyclist.

Wisconsin

  • Drivers in Wisconsin should not pass a bicyclist with less than 3 feet of space and must maintain clearance until safely past the bicyclist.

Wyoming

  • In Wyoming, drivers approaching a pedestrian or bicycle on the roadway, right-hand shoulder, or bicycle lane must pass to the left at a “safe distance” to avoid contact with a bicyclist, and cannot drive to the right side of the roadway until safely past bicyclist.

If you are driver and cyclist, it’s good to know the rules of the road, and check out more information on buying a bicycle rack for your vehicle for your next trip.

Arriving at your destination safely should be a driver’s number one goal, and successfully sharing the road with bicyclists is one way to ensure that it happens. If you have any questions about driving safely around bicyclists, YourMechanic is here to help. Ask a mechanic for help on how to do so.


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