Three Feet Means At Least Three Feet - And Response (6)

Sunday, March 09, 2014 - by Joe DeGaetano

With spring weather finally here, there are going to be more bicyclists on the roadways. So remember to pack your air horn and mace in case one of them tries to attack you.  But seriously, a bicyclist has little or no chance to walk away from a collision (or even a near-miss) with a car or truck.  Fortunately, we have laws designed to give bicyclists a fighting chance.  

The “Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007,” Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-175(c)(2), requires motorists to leave a safe distance of at least three feet between their vehicle and a bicycle until safely past the bicycle.  That law provides as follows:  “The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3') and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-175(c)(2).  Although this is commonly referred to as the “three-foot rule,” the statute actually requires a minimum buffer of three feet, plus whatever additional buffer constitutes a “safe distance” under the circumstances. 

There are occasions where passing a bicycle is prohibited entirely.  In a no-passing zone (typically indicated by double yellow lines), Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-121 prohibits passing on the left side of the roadway.  That law protects bicyclists too, because “[e]very person riding a bicycle upon a roadway is granted all of the rights” of a person operating a motor vehicle.  Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-172(a).  Thus, in a marked no-passing zone, if a motor vehicle cannot provide the bicycle at least a three-foot buffer and stay entirely within the right lane, then the motorist cannot lawfully pass the bicycle.  The reasoning behind this rule is sound:  if a motorist tried to pass a bicycle by driving left of center around a “blind” curve, and then abruptly had to veer back to the right to avoid an oncoming vehicle, the bicyclist would be in the ditch or worse.  

If we abide by these laws and practice common sense and patience, we will see far fewer lives tragically destroyed.

Joe DeGaetano
Chattanooga 


* * * 

Mr.DeGaetano, your post will probably draw all kinds of negative comments as many drivers on the road despise having to be inconvenienced by bicyclists.  They rant, curse, throw things, honk their horns, and spit, because arrogantly they think that their plans and interests are more important than those of others.  

They aren't the only ones though.  We tailgate and bully others on the road all the time, not taking into consideration that other folks have a right to get where they're going and take care of their business just like we do.  Maybe someone is driving a little slower because they don't see as well as we do, or maybe they're older and are trying to be careful.  We're quick to get angry over the smallest mistake when we ourselves are guilty sometimes too of doing stupid things on the road.  I say "we" because I know that I get pretty impatient sometimes.  I'm trying to remind myself of these things when I do.  I'm not the most important person out there. 

Joyce Hague 

* * * 

When someone is foolish enough to ride a bicycle where bicycles were not meant to go, they risk injury and make a nuisance of themselves. I think some cyclists like making a nuisance of themselves. Several times I have encountered cyclists riding four abreast and two abreast routinely. 

Cyclists try to ride up Lookout Mountain, a road that was built in the 1920s and not wide enough for two standard cars of today's size to pass. We have idiots riding down the Mountain at speeds of 40-50 miles an hour in traffic. If you are stupid enough to ride a bike between two cars going down the mountain at 50 mph you are asking to get hurt. We have already had one death where a cyclist was riding down the mountain and couldn’t make the curve and hit a car head on. To ride where there are blind curves for motorists approaching at 40 mph is asking for a tragedy. 

We have tour buses and tractor trailers trying to pass each other on narrow lanes meant for A-Models. Other cyclists are foolish enough to ride on highways with speed limits of 55 or more. There has to be three feet available to give a cyclist three feet.  

Get out of the road and go to the battlefield or out in rural areas where there is not any traffic. I get the impression cyclists just want to be seen, I know they have a lot of money invested in their little to-tos but we don’t want to see them. If you ride a bicycle in traffic, you are an idiot. Anything could happen, pot holes (Lord knows Chattanooga is full of pot holes), mechanical problems, riding in a blind spot, etc. 

Why don’t cyclists have to have insurance and tags like everybody else? They should have to pay a wheel tax in lieu of our emission tax.  They should have to get a license like motorcyclists do. Visitors should have to get a temporary license like fishermen do.  If they are going to take up the road they should have to pay like everybody else. 

Chuck Davis
Lookout Mountain, Tn. 

* * * 

A person can't lose hope that in every new generation we will become a bit more tolerant and respectful of our fellow man and a bit less narcissistic and self-centered. Be that as it may, Toto was an excellent rock band in the 1980's and a tutu is a costume worn in a ballet. Not sure what Toto or a tutu has to do with derogatory comments about bicycling, but I'm sure once the next potential letter writer is finished watching Fox News and yelling at those kids in the yard, he will fully explain. Didn't take long, did it Joyce?

Herb Montgomery
Chattanooga 

* * * 

Chuck Davis has a point. We own two vans. We pay for two registrations, insure both, required to wear seat belts, pay gas tax for each, each operator must be 16 and above, has to pass a driving test and be licensed, emission testing, just for the privilege to operate a vehicle on the roadway. If I add a motorcycle I must be licensed, pay to have a registration, license plates, insurance, helmet and the third gas tax. These are what drivers face for the privilege to use the roadway. 

Now the state gives the bike rider three feet of the roadway and if there is no room we must follow until there is. I don't begrudge people riding a bike but it they have the special privilege of three feet then make all the above requirements apply to the bike riders. This would only be fair. Today we hear equal pay then why don't have equal cost? 

N.D. Kennedy Sr.
Ooltewah 

* * *

The tax, registration, license arguments are always brought up in regards to bicyclists. I'm not against some kind of "City Sticker" use decal for bikes, but is that what we want to pay our police officers to enforce while our youths kill each other? The only thing I would consider is that those bicyclists all have licensed vehicles sitting at home (not destroying our roads, polluting, and burning fossil fuels) while they propel themselves down the road by their own sweat and muscle.  

We don't tax skateboarders, joggers, rollerbladers or walkers, and they all use the sidewalks and/or roads, depending on particular locations, and they all move themselves along under their own power. For me, that's the difference, they are all self-propelled.  

Sure, I've been caught behind loudly dressed (which to me means easier to see) cyclists riding along in groups and I have been held up a few minutes every time. You know what? I just don't sweat the small stuff. I happen to think it's a nice thing that our town attracts the physically fit kind of people that don't get in their four wheel drive gas-guzzler to go to Hardee's and pig out. I also think it's nice they are exercising, leading healthy productive lives while their licensed and tagged vehicles sit at home in the driveway. 

Most of all, I think bicyclists and outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk make Chattanooga a really cool place to live. 

Wes Ellis 
Harrison 

* * * 

I’m just an old hippie. “Make love, not war” and “peace” were my mantra in the day. It seems like our world has lost all “common sense.”  I grew up in a subdivision in the “north” that had sidewalks all over the place. We didn’t have ditches. We had street lights everywhere. Common sense.  Our mom’s let us go out and play, trusting our neighbors to look out for each other's kids. They did. Common sense. We knew to be home when the street lights came on.  We rode our bikes everywhere, even across town, never, never, having to worry about traffic except when crossing a busy road, when we got off our bikes and walked. Common sense. 

Down here, I drive down Graysville Road (off East Brainerd) each and every day. The lane is probably only 4-5 feet with a ditch on the side.  When a bike is on that busy road, with people pulling in and out of CVS and the gas stations and churches, you are putting yourself in danger.  There is simply not enough room to navigate.  I realize some folks must ride a bike to get places, but for the most part, riding a bike is for recreation and exercise. 

I sometimes turn left off Gunbarrel Road on to Igou Gap Road to take a shortcut home.  This is a newer area with actual bike riding lanes built in.  There are many places like this for bicyclists, including parks.  When I turn right to get to Jenkins Road on my way to East Brainerd, the lane is very narrow- probably only 3-4 feet wide.  A bicyclist almost got pushed in the ditch in the other lane, then stopped and screamed at the driver.  I was watching.  I wanted to say- hey dummy, how about going to where those bike lanes are right down the road and quit causing this frenzy? 

Common sense.  It’s not about rights.  It’s about common sense.  Quit riding your bikes where there are narrow roads, where you know traffic is crazy, where it’s curvy and hilly and cars can’t stop on a dime because there’s one on their rear end and they can’t see you until it’s too late.  I get that you love to ride, and you have the right to do it.  I don’t get your “dancing with death” because of it.  Common sense.  The people in the cars are not your enemies. We are all neighbors, friends and as a Christian I do “love my neighbor”-  so much, that I don’t want to hurt anyone- or myself, because of the lack of common sense.

Debbie Peck


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