Thursday, August 8, 2013

Serious about sharing the road

Several people shared this article about how Austin police enforce their 3 foot passing law, Serious about sharing the road. In Austin "motorists must allow at least 3 feet of clearance when passing vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, construction workers and pedestrians. Heavy trucks must allow at least 6 feet." This year VA cyclists will likely make another attempt to get the 3 foot passing law in Virginia. This is how the bill fared last year as part of the Following too closely bill.
It's not a good idea to pass this Austin
undercover policewoman too close.
Note the camera on her handlebars.
Photo: AustinAmerican-Statesman
Typically, two undercover officers head out on bikes. They ride single file up and down a short stretch of road, waiting for motorists to pass. Officers in patrol cars pull over those who get too close, issuing warnings or citations based on the severity of the violation.

Before they hit the streets, the undercover cyclists practice judging the 3-foot distance by setting up a pole and riding past it. They measure the distance from the end of the handlebar to the farthest part of vehicle — usually the mirror. GoPro video cameras mounted on the bike record everything.

“If I were riding along and could reach out and touch the mirror, those get a citation,” says Cunningham, who was a cyclist before she became a police officer. “If it’s one we feel is right on the cusp, we give a warning.”

In the nearly four years since the law went into effect, officers have written 104 citations and warnings for people violating it, according to Cmdr. Fred Fletcher with the Austin Police Department. A ticket costs $167, but and violators can take a defensive cycling class at Municipal Court in lieu of paying the fine.

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Cyclists must also get serious about sharing the road. A group ride on Saturday in Reston was in the right lane on South Lakes Drive -- 5 and 6 abreast, at speeds of 20-25 miles per hour. Several members of the group also kept going into the left lane where a teen driver was quickly losing interest in being 'kind to bicyclists". I know this to be true because the driver was my child. I have since talked said child back down -- but it's a very hard thing to sell "share the road" when the perception is that responsibility only goes one way.

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