Bill would officially allow drivers to cross double yellow to pass someone on a bike

Posted on February 11, 2013 by Tom Fucoloro

Source: Seattle Bike Blog

© Photo from BikeWA Safe Passing Bill - Bike vs. Car

© Photo from BikeWA
Safe Passing Bill – Bike vs. Car

A bill starting its journey through the state legislature would officially legalize something that nearly all careful and courteous drivers already do: cross a double yellow line in order to give someone biking or walking on the road a safe amount of space.

I imagine the typical response to this bill is probably: “Are you kidding me? That isn’t already legal?” That was my response.

The Safe Passing Bill (SB 5564) is headed to the Senate Transportation Committee tomorrow. Since I suspect most people driving have no idea that crossing the double yellow to pass someone on a bike is currently illegal, it simply makes sense to change the law to fit existing behavior. It would also give people who do not cross the double yellow for fear of breaking a rule or getting a ticket peace of mind to go ahead and give a safe amount of space.

For those who remember the so-called “Mutual Responsibility Bill” from 2011 this is NOT the same bill. This is also not exactly a three-foot passing bill, though it does make it easier for drivers to give three (or, preferably, more) feet. State law currently requires people driving to pass at “a safe distance to clearly avoid coming into contact with the pedestrian or bicyclist.”

More details from BikeWA:

We just want to make sure you don’t get a ticket for doing something so sensible. That’s why we introduced the Safe Passing Bill (SB 5564). It will be up for a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on Feb. 12, which also happens to be Transportation Advocacy Day, so we expect quite a few friends to be there listening.

The bill would simply clarify that a driver may legally cross the double yellow line “when overtaking and passing a pedestrian or bicyclist so as to maintain a safe distance of at least three feet.” Pretty simple, really.

Drivers are still expected to watch for oncoming traffic and make safe decisions. We just know that roads engineered for the closing and passing distances of motorized vehicles traveling at their rates of speed may have double yellow lines in locations that allow plenty of time to get around someone on a bicycle or on foot.

Here’s the proposed law change (underlined):

5564 by