[Updated 6/15/07, 1:15pm]
A bill that seemed to come out of nowhere (I didn’t know about it until I read the Statesman Journal this morning) and that started out having nothing to do with bicycle safety, has passed the House, and is set to become Oregon’s first safe passing legislation that specifically protects bicyclists.
Senate Bill 108, will amend the Oregon Revised Statute that deals with following too closely (ORS 811.485) to include several stipulations about how a motor vehicle is required to pass a bicyclist. The bill avoids the three-foot passing distance that has been adopted by other states and instead defines a ‘safe distance’ as,
“…a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall off the bicycle into the driver’s lane of traffic.”
According to the bill, a motor vehicle,
“…must only pass a person operating a bicycle by driving to the left of the bicycle at a safe distance and returning to the lane of travel once the motor vehicle is safely clear of the overtaken bicycle…and, may drive to the left of the center of a roadway to pass a person operating a bicycle proceeding in the same direction only if the roadway to the left of the center is unobstructed for a sufficient distance to permit the driver to pass the person operating the bicycle safely and avoid interference with oncoming traffic.”
The bill also lays out some key exceptions,
“…does not apply to a driver operating a motor vehicle:
(A) In a lane that is separate from and adjacent to a designated bicycle lane;
(B) At a speed not greater than 35 miles per hour; or*
(C) When the driver is passing a person operating a bicycle on the person’s right side and the person operating the bicycle is
*Exception (B) is noteworthy because it makes this a rural road bill. City and local residential streets would not be covered under this legislation.
The bill makes an infraction of these laws a Class B traffic violation, punishable by a $360 fine. According to the Statesman Journal newspaper, Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) — a close friend of Jane Higdon, who was struck and killed by a passing truck one year ago — worked with other lawmakers to pass the bill.
The bill has passed the Senate and the House, and now it goes back to the Senate for approval of amendments before being signed into law.