New Law in New York Will Make Cars Passing Cyclists Give Them a “Safe Distance”

I am a regular reader, and admirer, of Elmira bicycle accident attorney Jim Reed’s New York Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog. Jim is always one of the first to post updates on bike equipment recalls and changes in New York laws that affect cyclists. So I was not surprised to read Jim’s blog post today in which he notified his readers, and me, about a new pro-cyclist New York bill (called “Merrill’s Law”) that is making its way through the legislative process in Albany right now. According to Jim, with a little luck, it will become law this November. The new law will require motorists to keep a “safe distance” from cyclists while passing.

Well gee, about time! Until now a motorist could legally bring his car within inches of your bike and, as long as didn’t sideswipe it, he was not violating the law. That makes no sense! And as Jim and I both know from our years of representing New York bicyclists injured by cars, it makes for bad injuries, too. So it’s a good thing the law is changing (we hope!).

This new law reminds me of a story my brother Tom Bersani told me. He, like me, is an avid cyclist. He took a trip to Italy a few years ago and brought his bike along. Under Italian law, motorists are required to keep a distance of 6 feet or so from bicyclists. As he was climbing a long, winding mountain road on his bike, a long line of cars trailed him. The motorists could not safely pass Tom while giving him the mandatory 6-foot distance, so they stayed behind him. When the road finally straightened out, Tom noticed that several car windows began rolling down as they passed him. He expected the Italian equivalent of a one-finger salute, or some Italian profanities to be hurled at him for slowing them down. But instead they shouted, “bravo, bravo, bravo!” They were congratulating him on his hill-climbing stamina! I guess Italians really love cyclists!

Hey, New York motorists, next time you pass a cyclist, don’t just give him a “safe distance”, give him a “bravo” as well!

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