The State Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) to enhance bicycle safety in New York by establishing a “three-feet, safe-passing zone” as the
minimum distance that motorists must provide when passing bicyclists on
The legislation (S.6649/A.9189) is supported by bicycle safety and
other bicycling advocates statewide, including the Southern Tier Bicycle
League and other local safety advocates. According to some estimates, the
surge in cycling’s popularity has resulted in more than 200,000 bike riders
taking to roadways daily. The legislation is sponsored in the Assembly by
Assemblyman Phil Steck (D-Colonie), where it’s currently in the Assembly
“With more and more cyclists sharing our roadways, we should take
every reasonable step to make all drivers more aware of the need for
safety,” said O’Mara, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“This legislation will require motorists to be more aware, provide a safe
zone when passing bicyclists on the road, and prevent injuries and save
If enacted into law, New York would join 26 others states which have
enacted three-feet, safe-passing laws. Supporters of the legislation,
including O’Mara and Steck, say that as the state Department of
Transportation (DOT) continues to actively install bike lanes on roadways
throughout New York, their legislation is timely and necessary to help
ensure the safety of the increased bicycle traffic.
O’Mara also continues to co-sponsor legislation (S.1452/A.2192) that
would, if enacted, require the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to
incorporate a “bicycle and pedestrian safety” component into the pre-licensing driver’s manual and exam motorists are required to review and pass before obtaining a driver’s license. Specific provisions of the new driver awareness and education component would include instruction on:
safely passing a cyclist on the road; special considerations while driving in urban areas; the definition and designation of bicycle lanes; how to navigate an intersection with pedestrians and cyclists; and exiting a vehicle without endangering pedestrians and cyclists.
This legislation was approved by the Senate in March and is currently
awaiting action by the Assembly Transportation Committee. It’s sponsored
in the Assembly by Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn). O’Mara first
pledged his support for the measure at the “Awareness Ride in Memory of
Matt Miller” in May 2014. Miller, 43, an Elmira Free Academy graduate, was
struck head-on and killed by a left-turning motorist while riding his bike on Hendy Creek Road in the town of Southport in late April 2014. The motorist was ticketed for failure to yield. The 6.2-mile memory ride was sponsored by Kingsbury’s Cyclery in Elmira and was attended by over 200 area cyclists. The money raised by the event established a college fund
for Miller’s seven-year-old son, Holden.
“Matt Miller’s tragic death led the local cycling community to get behind this and other pieces of legislation and it made all of us more aware of the need for action,” said O’Mara. “Making all drivers more aware of sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians is the most effective way to make our roadways safer. It’s a straightforward, common sense piece of legislation that could save lives and the Assembly leadership should approve it.”