2023/04 – Advocacy Alert: Idaho Stop + 3-Foot Safe Passing

ghostbike Victor J. Blue Bicycling MagazineVictor J. Blue, “What’s Really Killing New York’s Cyclists,” Bicycling.com

Email Subject Line:

Please pass A3986/S2643 and A4346/S1724 to make cycling safer and easier across New York

Email Body:

Dear [Assemblymember/Senator]

As an avid cyclist (on behalf of cycling organization’s ### members), I ask you support passage of the following bills:

A3986 / S2643 (“Idaho Stop”) would amend the Vehicle and Traffic Law (V&TL) to allow cyclists to a) treat a stop light as a stop sign and b) a stop sign as a yield sign.  

Permitting cyclists to enter an intersection before a light turns green gets them out of truck driver’s blind spots and around vehicles blocking bike lanes—two principal causes of cyclist fatalities.  Twenty seven cyclists were killed in traffic crashes in New York City in 2019—more than half involving commercial vehicles.  Yet in 2019, NYPD wrote 35,000 moving violations to cyclists—which is more than for trucks which represent 10% of all city traffic and figured in 43 of the 220 road deaths.

Allowing bicycles to yield at stop signs reduces cyclist fatigue, as well as their time in intersections when they’re subject to getting hit—additional risk factors.  Further, it facilitates planners’ use of secondary roads when designing bike networks as cyclists often chose main roads to avoid repeated stopping.

Ten states now have “stop as yield” laws.  In 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Council (NHTSA) concluded that “bicycle stop-as-yield laws enhanced cyclist safety in states where they were evaluated and may positively affect the environment traffic and transportation.” Also see Supporters, Talking Points

A4346 / S1724 (“3-Foot Safe Passing”) would amend the V&TL to require motorists outside New York City to maintain a minimum 3-foot safe distance while passing cyclists.  NYSDOT considers 3-foot as the minimum passing distance to provide adequate space for bicyclists and a standard easily understood by motorists.  We further ask that the bills be amended to a) incorporate elements of NJ’s Safe Passing Law and b) to include an “opt-in” provision for New York City.

While they’re not a replacement for investment in bicycle infrastructure, 3 foot passing laws provide safety through education where infrastructure is lacking.  Cyclists on public roads are frequently required to deviate their path of travel at a split-second’s notice to avoid potholes and suddenly-opened-car-doors.  A 3-foot buffer affords them a margin of safety to negotiate around these hazards.  

Current NY law specifies a “safe distance,” but this is vague, open to interpretation and potentially leads to discriminatory enforcement. NYSDOT considers 3-foot as the minimum passing distance to provide adequate space for bicyclists—and a standard easily understood by motorists. 

35 states and the District of Columbia have enacted safe passage laws. Cyclists traveling through New Jersey and Pennsylvania are afforded a 4-foot margin of safety.  In 2021, Suffolk became the first county in New York to implement a 3’ safe passing law, followed by Monroe later that year. 

Passing A4346/S1724 would elevate cyclists’ status as road users, send motorists a clear message about how to safely pass a person on a bicycle and help foster a culture of safer driving across New York.

Accordingly, we ask you to prioritize both bills in the current legislative session.

Sincerely,

[Your Name, Title, Organization]

Send to:

In you live in New York City, also:

Email your City Council Member to sponsor Reso 0590-2023 which calls on the NYState Senate-Assembly to pass the Idaho Stop bills:

Finally …

Forward this link to fellow cyclists and bring this flyer to your local bike shop.

Thank you and stay safe!

Neile Weissman, 2023