Law protects people who ride bicycles

  • Garden Island file photo

    A bicyclist rides on the shoulder of Kaumualii Highway on the Westside.

LIHUE — A new law is in effect that makes Hawaii’s roads safer for people who ride bicycles.

“This new law is a major step forward in that it requires people driving motor vehicles to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when overtaking,” said Tommy Noyes, an avid cyclist who serves as Kauai Path’s executive director.

Gov. David Ige recently signed HB 2215 (Act 47), the three-foot passing bill, at a ceremony held at the Office of the Governor in the Hawaii State Capitol.

HB2215 passed the full Senate and House on May 1. Ige signed the bill into law on June 20, and it took effect July 1.

It requires drivers to allow at least three feet of separation between the driver’s vehicle and the bicycle when passing or overtaking the bicyclist.

That means motorists must allow at least three feet of clear separation from every part of their motor vehicle (such as rear view mirrors, loaded materials, or trailer components) to the bicycle or the bicyclist’s body. Typically the bicyclist’s elbow would extend the furthest toward the travel way.

“The passage of this bill highlights our commitment to ensuring that cyclists are safe on our roads, and that Hawaii becomes a more bicycle friendly community,” said Gov. Ige. “I am happy to sign this bill and make Hawaii the 37th state in the nation to make this commitment.”

Personal and written testimony presented to the legislators was overwhelmingly in favor of the three-foot safe passing measure. The bill received a total of 329 written testimonies – 328 were in support and only one individual was in opposition.

Hawaii Bicycling League took the lead in coordinating passage of this legislation.

“The Safe Passing Three Foot bill makes clear in Hawaii law that three feet is the minimum safe distance for a motorist to give when overtaking a bicyclist,” said Daniel Alexander, HBL’s advocacy, planning, and communication director. “This basic safety law, which already exists in the majority of states, is a simple way to help ensure that we can all share our roads safely.”

In addition to the hundreds of individuals testifying in support, HBL had a powerful coalition of supporting organizations that included AARP, American Diabetes Association, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaii Cycling Club, Hawaii Public Health Institute, Kauai Path, Maui Bicycling League and Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii.

HBL also received strong support from government agencies that work to make sure Hawaii’s streets are safe for everyone – people who bike, walk, and drive.

Those agencies include the Hawaii Department of Transportation, Hawaii Strategic Highway Safety Council, Honolulu Police Department, Honolulu Department of Transportation Services, Kauai Police Department, and Maui Police Department.

Noyes said he urges bicyclists to obey traffic laws and be alert to vehicles approaching them from behind as they ride with the flow of traffic.

“Also, respect and courtesy are the basis for safety on our roads,” he said. “If one or more motorists cannot safely pass within a reasonable length of time, a courteous bicyclist will pull over to the side and allow the faster moving traffic to pass them. The courteous motorist will be patient. We can nurture this attitude of mutual respect and courtesy for the safety of all.”

  1. gordon oswald July 11, 2018 6:41 am Reply

    Unfortunately, this “law” is a waste of time. There is, however, a law that is surly needed and would be effective. How about a speed limit for bicycle riders on the bike path that stretches from below Wailua to Anahola? To say, 5 miles an hour!! My family members have been very close to being hit by riders speeding down the path at 30 plus miles an hour passing us within a foot, FROM BEHIND! Now that will save lives!

  2. jake July 11, 2018 6:42 am Reply

    All well and good, but let’s keep in mind that often it’s bicyclists who put themselves in harm’s way by not observing the same traffic laws as motorists (which they are required by law to do.) Blasting down a sidewalk full of pedestrians, riding the wrong way in the wrong lane, not signaling your intentions so motorists know what you’re going to do, and not being visible enough. All of these contribute to accidents caused by bicycles vs motorists.

  3. numilalocal July 11, 2018 4:59 pm Reply

    Gordon, many bicyclists ride on the highway, the only route between many areas. Generally, speed limits on multi-use paths are a maximum of 10 mph and most of us ride faster than that. Jake, bicycles are NOT allowed on sidewalks in many places such as business districts but the behavior of vehicle drivers motivates some riders to get out of harm’s way. To both of you, this law is just another tool in the box that we riders can use to protect ourselves. Remember, that a properly-licensed bicycle can ride on any and ALL Kauai roadways. Yes,
    we are subject to the rules of the road and we also deserve some common courtesy. I see lots of cars violate the law so it’s not always the cyclist’s fault. Please just share the road. None of us expect perfection but we do request that drivers at least make an effort to give us some room. Remember, a driver’s time is not more important than anyone else’s life.

  4. John Zwiebel July 11, 2018 5:56 pm Reply

    As an avid bike rider who gave it up after moving to Kauai, one would have to be nuts to ride a bike on Kauai’s roads. Actually, one would be nuts to even walk on the side of most Kauai roads.

    Because Kauai’s roads are so narrow, to ensure a 3ft clearance drivers will have to swerve into the oncoming traffic lane.

    Still, I encourage you nutty Kauai bike riders to figure out a way of recording those drivers who do not provide you the clearance the law now demands. If nothing else, perhaps some new roads to alleviate traffic congestion might be built — that is, if the land can be wrested away from the Oligarchs.

    Or maybe some completely separate bike paths might be established.

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