During the summer of 2013 a Las Vegas cyclist rode a daily 36 mile route in the Mount Charleston area for exercise and well-being. The cyclist was constantly buzzed by every type of vehicle from eco-cars like the Prius, to hazardous materials semis and school buses. Hand gestures provided no relief and didn’t stop any drivers from recklessly endangering the cyclist. So he rigged an old $100 point and shoot camera to his aero bars and started snapping images to document exactly who was breaking the 3 Foot Law. [Nevada’s 3 Foot Law is progressive as 3 Foot laws go. It states that drivers must provide a cyclist with a whole lane if it’s safe to do so. If it’s not safe to give a whole lane then drivers must give cyclists a minimum of 3 Feet.] Hundreds of images later he saw that only a few drivers out of thousands moved over and some intentionally drove much closer than 3 feet. Drivers in either case broke the Nevada 3 Foot law. Over the course of the summer he learned which drivers were repeat offenders. In order to document some of the most egregious drivers we created the 3FootCycling.com home page which highlights them in the Most Wanted category. The home page also breaks out offenders by Semis, RVs, government vehicles, Limos, SUVs, and regular cars. Everyone was breaking the 3 Foot law from soccer moms driving their kids to school to school buses to government vehicles to hazardous chemicals semis at driving 75 miles per hour on the highway.
Cars that drive within several feet of a cyclist create a “wind wake” just like a speed boat creates a water wake. Automobile drivers experience this when passing a semi going 75 miles per hour, imagine the effect on cyclists.
This was just one cyclist in the summer of 2013. Drivers were not singling out this particular cyclist. All cyclists face this reckless endangerment. A Prius hitting a cyclist at only 30 miles per hour can cause devastating injuries. Depending on how the cyclist is hit it could prove fatal. 30 miles per hours, a Prius. Now think about Pickups, SUVs, commercial vehicles, school buses and Semis at a mere 30 miles per hour. Now think about those vehicles at 75 miles per hour. Regardless of the speed, when driven recklessly, these are weapons that can cause mass destruction and horrible devastation for the cyclists and their families.
The genesis of Nevada’s 3 Foot Law began on January 12, 2009 when Ryan Pretner, ironically a Nevada Department of Transportation employee, was riding solo when a F150 pickup truck hit Ryan in the back of his head with the passenger side mirror throwing him into a coma. Almost 4 1/2 years later he stood with officials supporting the implementation of Nevada’s 3 Foot Law.
“May 30, 2013 – The 37-year-old Las Vegas man, who boasted of cycling upwards of 200 miles a week, was riding down St. Rose Parkway early in the evening of Jan. 12, 2009, when a Ford F-150 pickup truck’s side mirror hit the back of Pretner’s head.
Even though Pretner was following traffic safety law and wearing a helmet, the collision fractured his skull and left him in a coma for almost two months.
Doctors gave him a 10 percent chance to live.
It took months for small bits of progress; eight months to wean Pretner off a feeding tube, nine months for him to learn how to speak again. An entire year passed before he was able to walk without assistance.
Four years later, Pretner is doing much better. Though he faces lifelong problems stemming from the accident, he stood proudly Thursday morning at the Regional Transportation Commission’s Bonneville Transit Center, flanked by public officials and fellow cycling enthusiasts in the hopes of bringing awareness to a safe-driving law that may have saved him from tragedy.
…For Pretner, who testified in 2011 in favor of the 3-foot-law bill, the battle against cycling accidents isn’t finished. The rule won’t have any impact unless the public knows about it, he said.
“Vegas needs this law, and we must bring awareness to the public so that there are more careful and considerate of bike riders,” he said.”
“June 15, 2011 – Muscle Powered’s Kelly Clark, who headed the team that worked on the Vulnerable Users law, initiated it with the idea of making the streets safer. “It seems like the environment on the streets has been getting more angry, not less. This law is really just the beginning. It basically says striking a pedestrian or cyclist can be grounds for reckless driving and losing your license. There is still a lot of work to do: educating the public; getting cyclists to report incidents; getting law enforcement to take accidents seriously. This legislation is a small step, but it is a start.””
We highlighted Ryan and Kelly’s quotes above because Nevada’s 3 Foot Law was passed in 2011. Yet all of the images on our home page were from one cyclist during the summer of 2013. None of the 2013 drivers moved over as the law required, including triple-trailer semis driving over 70 mph within feet of the cyclist! Drivers were not singling out this one cyclist. This was the “normal” driver behavior for cyclists across all of Las Vegas; distance cyclists, commuters, kids just riding their bikes. This still is the normal driver behavior for cyclists across all of Nevada and across all of the states in our country. 21 states have passed 3 Foot Cycling laws. Pennsylvania passed a 4 Foot Cycling law. We must change the “normal” driver behavior to giving cyclists, runners, and pedestrians a whole lane when it’s safe to do so and never less than 3 feet.
In May of 2012 Rutgers University published a seminal analysis of all the 3 Foot Laws across our country in “The 3′ Law: Lessons Learned from a National Analysis of State Policies and Expert Interviews.” Several of their key findings are in our Blog including:
“These case studies have demonstrated that the 3 Foot Law provides little in terms of actual safety for bicyclists.”
“The law is hardly enforced and police are reluctant to do so even in some extreme cases. This is because the law is a somewhat hollow statement rather than a solid enforceable protection measure.”
“the distance for safe passage is defined by the motorist’s determination of how much space they must give a cyclist in order to pass them clearly and safely in the circumstance where a cyclist fell into the roadway.”
“enforcement and citations of the 3 Foot Law often occurs post-collision, thereby limiting its preventative effect.”
This problem is not confined to the US:
November 18, 2013 – “A man today became the sixth cyclist to be killed on London’s roads in less than two weeks after a crash with a lorry.”
November 15, 2013 – Britain’s most senior police officer has warned that large vehicles can be “killing machines” and cyclists can find themselves in the path of a lorry or bus with “one wobble” in the wake of a spate of bike deaths.
One cyclist injured is one too many. One cyclist killed is a senseless tragedy.
Cyclists must be empowered to protect themselves.
Cyclists and Driver Role Models must come together as a national network to create that protection and demand strong and enforced 3 Foot Laws that truly protect cyclists, runners, and pedestrians.
We created 3FootCycling.com to empower cyclists and Driver Role Models across our country.