3 Foot Law


In case you have not heard, or your a newbee, welcome to Houston which is fast becoming a wonderful place for outdoor recreation. Sadly, approximately 50 cyclists, 400 pedestrians and 500 motorcyclists are killed every year in Texas. Many of those fatalities can be prevented if we spread the word about sharing the road.

Houston has adopted a three-foot passing rule for cyclists and other vulnerable users, adding Houston, Texas to a growing list of states, cities and towns that now require motorists to give three feet of space to cyclists, pedestrians, and road workers among others, when they pass. Trucks and other large vehicles will be required to give six-feet to the vulnerable road users. This only applies when road conditions allow.

"Vulnerable road users" include a pedestrian, runner, physically disabled person, child, skate-boarder, road workers, tow truck operator, stranded motorist, equestrian, and person operating a bicycle, etc.

One of the common scenarios which causes accidents and even death, is the move called the “right hook” which is turning dangerously in front of a vulnerable road user. This law also prohibits the "right hook" and failing to yield when making a left turn at an intersection. So many drivers believe cyclists do not “belong,” on the road, and bicyclists and vulnerable users, are feeling bullied. Besides requiring that minimum safe space, the ordinance prohibits motorists from throwing objects at vulnerable users.

Houston is the fourth city in the state to pass such a law: the others are Alamo, Alton, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Denton, Edinburg, El Paso, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Helotes, Houston, McAllen, Mission, New Braunfels, Palmhurst, Pharr, Plano, San Antonio, San Juan, and Weslaco.

Although all types of road users are at risk of being injured or killed in a road traffic crash, there are notable differences in fatality rates between different road user groups. Vulnerable road users are at greater risk than vehicle occupants and usually bear the greatest burden of injury. Children, elderly, and disabled people are particular vulnerable, as their physical and mental skills are either not fully developed or they are especially fragile.

Houston residents routinely feel threatened by drivers who suffer little or no penalties for striking and killing cyclists and pedestrians. In Texas, and also other other large states like New York, the record is not good. Safe-passing law exists, but the common theme is that it is rarely enforced.

Twenty-two states so far have passed three-foot and safe-passing laws. Wisconsin was the first state to adopt such a statute in 1973, but not another state did so until Minnesota lawmakers adopted a similar measure in 1995, followed by Arizona in 2000. But even a 3-foot passing law is considered inadequate by cyclists and urban planning professionals who often ride bicycles on the road. We hope you will be mindful of your surroundings, and spread the awareness, until there is a common courtesy for all travelers who need the roads to get around, in whatever manner they choose.

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