Man, I’d forgotten about this.
After Gov. Rick Perry’s veto in 2009 blocked a statewide law requiring drivers to keep a minimum distance from cyclists on the road, 13 cities approved a model safe-passing law developed by cycling advocates. Dallas passed a similar measure.
The local ordinances require drivers to give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space, or 6 feet for drivers of commercial vehicles.
Supporters say the laws provide a useful tool to encourage safer driving and make more people aware cyclists have a right to the road. Though supporters said citations are rare, violation of the safe-passing laws is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200.
“I think we figured out a long time ago we need traffic laws to make people behave,” said Robin Stallings, executive director of BikeTexas, a state cycling advocacy group.
Nearly every major Texas city other than Houston has adopted a safe-passing law. In Austin and San Antonio, police officials are big supporters, and they schedule special enforcement events to make drivers aware of the law and encourage road sharing.
Stallings compared the need for safe-passing laws to Texas’ “move-over” law, which requires drivers to give emergency vehicles parked on roads a buffer to increase safety.
“It makes sense for emergency workers, so it ought to make sense for our children and seniors and mothers and fathers on bicycles,” Stallings said.
But despite interest from local cyclists, Stallings said he was not aware of anyone asking Houston officials to pass a safe driving law.
See here for some background. We’ve been preoccupied with other transportation issues around here, and if a version of the Safe Passing bill came up again in 2011, it couldn’t break through the blood lust for budget cuts for attention. As the story notes, Houston does have a lot of great off-road options for bike transportation, which may make this a lower priority for us. Stallings says that another bill will come up this year, so we’ll see what happens. If it fails again it may be time to consider a local approach, and a contested Mayoral race ought to afford the opportunity for interested parties to push for a commitment to action.