By Tommy Noyes
A new law making Hawai‘i’s roads safer for people who ride bicycles is now in effect. Gov. David Ige signed HB 2215 (Act 47), the three-foot passing bill, at a ceremony held at the Office of the Governor in the Hawai‘i State Capitol in June.
HB 2215 passed the full Senate and House May 1, and Ige signed the bill into law June 20. The new law went into 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. This 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 towards the travel way.
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. Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated as the operators of vehicles, observe all traffic laws, and are alert to vehicles approaching them from every direction as they ride with the flow of traffic.
Respect and courtesy are the basis for safety on our roads. If motorists cannot safely pass within a reasonable length of time, courteous bicyclists will pull over to the side and allow the faster traffic to pass. Courteous motorists will be patient. Adopting these attitudes of mutual respect and courtesy ensures safety for all.
“The passage of this bill highlights our commitment to ensuring that cyclists are safe on our roads, and that Hawai‘i becomes a more bicycle-friendly community,” Ige said. “I am happy to sign this bill and make Hawai‘i the 37th state in the nation to make this commitment.”
The Hawai‘i Bicycling League took the lead in coordinating passage of this legislation.
“The Safe Passing Three Foot bill makes clear in Hawai‘i 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, including AARP, American Diabetes Association, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawai‘i Cycling Club, Hawai‘i Public Health Institute, Kaua‘i Path (www.KauaiPath.org), Maui Bicycling League, PATH Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawai‘i, Sustainable Transportation Coalition of Hawai‘i and others.
HBL also received strong support from government agencies that work to make sure Hawai‘i’s streets are safe for everyone — people who bike, walk and drive. Those agencies include the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation, Hawai‘i Strategic Highway Safety Council, Honolulu Police Department, Honolulu Department of Transportation Services, Kaua‘i Police Department and Maui Police Department.
- 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.