By Tommy Noyes

Crossing the double yellow line when overtaking a bicyclist is legally required on the Natchez Trace in Mississippi. Photo by Tommy Noyes

May is National Bike Month, and Get Fit Kaua‘i invites bicyclists to a meet-up Bike 2 Work Day on Friday morning, May 19. Southbound riders depart from the Kapa‘a Neighborhood Center at 6 a.m., northbound riders depart from Puhi Park (across from Kaua‘i Community College at Kaumuali‘i Highway) at 6:45 a.m., and we’ll all meet for breakfast at the Lihu‘e Civic Center at 7:15 a.m. Call or text me at 639-1018 for info or if you’d like to volunteer for this fun event.

Last month, my wife and I traveled to the Mainland to connect with family members. Pat’s niece gave birth to her first child in March, and we did a bicycle tour with my sister in Mississippi. Friends wondered why we’d want to bicycle in Mississippi, and at first I had a few doubts myself. As it turned out, the weather in Mississippi in April was ideal, and Mississippi has gone to considerable effort to attract visitors, including bicyclists.

The main attraction on our Mississippi bicycling adventure was a section of the Natchez Trace, a 440-mile-long National Parkway that follows the historic route between Natchez and Nashville, Tenn. We rode about 60 miles of the southern portion of the Trace.

As we rolled along this two lane, 50 MPH speed limit scenic parkway with no shoulders, motorists passing us consistently crossed the double yellow line, moving into the on-coming traffic lane. Sometimes those motorists needed to slow down for a few moments behind us as oncoming vehicles passed before it was safe for them to move completely into the other lane and pass us. We felt welcomed and appreciated as visitors in a courteous host community.

Our guide informed us that motorists on the Trace are legally required to wait until it is safe to completely change lanes before passing a bicyclist. Moreover, the whole state of Mississippi enforces a three-foot minimum passing clearance between motor vehicles and bicyclists. Similarly, bicyclists are legally required to ride single file and as close to right side of the roadway as practicable.

In my opinion, those examples of bicycle-friendly legislation put Mississippi ahead of Hawai‘i. In Hawai‘i, we pride ourselves on demonstrating aloha spirit and depend on the visitor industry. Visitors and residents enjoy bicycling on our roads, and we all deserve to be treated courteously.

The Hawai‘i Bicycle League, representing a coalition of bicycling advocates around the state, helped to craft a bill introduced in our 2017 legislative session to provide for both these safe passing practices — crossing a double yellow line when it is safe to do so, and always maintaining at least three feet of clearance between the passing vehicle and the bicyclist. Unfortunately, that bill died in a committee, but will likely be reintroduced in the next session.

Contact me at 639-1018 if you’d like to see Hawai‘i follow the lead of the 36 states around the nation that have enacted three-foot minimum passing clearance or comparable safe-passing legislation. Your support will help convince our legislators.

  • Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.