More and more states are bringing in “Safe Passing” laws to protect cyclists. As they do, more and more motorists complain that they cannot safely pass cyclists on winding country roads without crossing the double yellow line and putting themselves and others in danger.
I contend that drivers are making more out of this issue than there really is. First of all, yes you have to cross the double yellow that is obvious. However, realize that it is a painted line, not a concrete barrier; you can easily drive over it and back again.
Second, get the issue in perspective; it is not like passing an eighteen-wheel semi. A bicycle is less than six feet long, and barely eighteen inches wide. A cyclist needs about a third of the lane width, maybe half, depending on the overall width of the road.
It is nice when drivers go completely over to the other lane to pass, but it is not always possible, and often it is not necessary. Just straddling the yellow line in most cases gives a cyclist enough room; a lot depends on speed.
If I am doing 20mph and a car passes me at 30 mph, it doesn’t bother me too much if I am passed at slightly less than 3 feet. However, pass me at 60 mph and I would prefer a lot more room. A good rule would be, 3 foot at 30 mph, and one more foot per 10 mph over that.
The main problem is that many motorists view overtaking a cyclist in the same light as overtaking another car. A sane person would not usually overtake another car if there is opposing traffic, say 200 yards away.
However, the fact that a cyclist is moving at a relatively low speed is actually to your advantage when overtaking. You can safely pass a cyclist with approaching vehicles within 200 yards, even if you have to exhilarate from 20 mph.
Just do the maths. One mile per hour equals 1.467 feet per second traveled. A cyclist doing 20 mph would travel 29 feet in 1 second. (20 x 1.467 = 29.34 ft.) A car passing the cyclist at 30 mph would travel 44 feet in 1 second. (30 x 1.467 = 44.01 ft.)
Double this to 2 seconds for the sake of safety, that’s “One Mississippi, two Mississippi” and you are safely past the cyclist and on your merry way, back on your own side of the road.
Now let’s say there is a car approaching at 60 mph; your combined speeds are 60 + 30 = 90 mph. This equals 132 feet per second. (90 x 1.467 = 132.03 ft.) So 2 seconds translates to 264.06 feet, or 88.02 yards.
So if you overtake a cyclist with an approaching car 100 yards away you may be cutting it close, but 200 yards and you have doubled you margin of safety.
Plus, don’t forget you already doubled the time to pass the cyclist to 2 seconds; also remember, you are not in the opposing lane for the full 2 seconds.
The problem is, you get one timid driver who will not pass a cyclist if there is opposing traffic anywhere within the same zip code.
Traffic gets backed up, and everyone is pissed off. And who gets blamed, why the cyclist of course, when it is not he that is holding everyone up, but the damn pussy that won’t overtake.
So please motorists, the next time you see me out on the road, just go around me and stop making such a big fuss.
The article was prompted by this piece