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New Bill would require Washington cars to give at least 3 feet clearance when passing bicycles.

A bill has been proposed in Washington to force cars and other vehicles to give bicycles at least three feet of room when passing a bicycle.  The bill also  tells where bicycles belong in the roadway and instructs cyclists to avoid pedestrians on a trail.  The new law is aimed at raising public awarenenss for the safety problems associated with passing a bicycle too close with a motor vehicle.

Here are some highlights from the bill:
* Motor vehicle drivers must give 3 feet of clearance while passing a bicycle at 35 mph or slower.
* Drivers must give 5 feet clearance to bikes when faster than 35 mph "to the extent that it is reasonably feasible and safe."
* Bicyclists must "yield the right of way" to pedestrians in crosswalks, sidewalks and trails.  DUH!!
* Bicycles are allowed on the left side of one-way streets. 
* Cyclists have the right to travel a few feet away from a line of parked cars, avoiding what's known as the "door zone."

The bill is promoted by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, and borrows ideas from a law in Colorado, said Dave Janis, the alliance's policy director.  Fourteen states have a 3-foot law, according to Mr. Janis.

A similar bill two years ago passed the House but didn't make it through the Senate. A Teamsters' lobbyist then said some streets lack enough room to allow 3-foot clearance. A failed House amendment by Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, would have made the three-foot rule apply only in Seattle.

Mr. Janis claims the new bill deals with past objections. In part, it seeks to prevent situations where a slow cyclist fills an arterial lane unnecessarily, instead of moving right so cars can pass.  Asked when it's ever safe to drive past bicycles at only 3 feet going 40 mph, Janis said in some cases, "there's not that much space" to give 5 feet, but the rule could be strengthened in future laws.