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What to know about Georgia's new 3-foot passing law

You may have seen that Georgia recently passed a new “3-foot passing law.” This is good news for bicycle riders, so let’s look at what it means exactly.

What is a “3-foot passing law?”

This is a law that requires car drivers to give at least three feet of space to bicycles when they pass. Several states have their own variations of this “3-foot passing law.” Although their legal wording may differ, they are all based on the same concept.

But wait, wasn’t there already a 3-foot passing law in Georgia?

Yes, Georgia passed a similar 3-foot passing law in 2011. This was itself a huge step forward for street safety in the state. But, ten years later, it was due for an update.

One specific problem with the 2011 law was that it required drivers to leave safe space between themselves and bicycles “when feasible.” As you can imagine, allowing drivers to only consider the life-and-death safety of others “when feasible” was inadequate and legally ambiguous.

What’s in the new law?

You can read the text of the bill here.

  • It removes the “when feasible” language, so it now requires drivers to always leave three feet of safe space when passing bicycles.
  • It requires that drivers move into adjacent lanes to pass, if possible.
  • It requires that drivers passing in the same lane to slow to 10 MPH below the speed limit or 25 MPH, whichever is higher.
  • It specifies that “any violation of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punished by a fine of notmore than $250.00.”

When does it take effect?

It is in effect now! It started on July 1.

Does this mean our streets are safe for bicycles now?

As always, passing a law is just one piece of the solution. Not only do we now have a duty to enforce it and educate the public about it, but we must continue to grapple with the fact that most of our streets are deadly-by-design, and that our cars themselves have become less and less safe over the years. Fortunately, having the law on our side is a great step in the right direction.

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