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Survey on 4-foot rule

From the Twitter: Bicyclists: How is year-old "4-foot" law working? Are motorists obeying? Your comments sought at
2013-05-21 07:21:50
Direct link: "It's been a bit more than a year since the "four-foot rule" for drivers passing to the left of bicycles took effect. I'd be interested in hearing from riders on whether the law is being heeded." (This isn't just some random twitterer, either--it's PG transport writer Jon Schmitz, so I'd say comments stand a decent chance of being worked into a future story or blog post. If you don't facebook, you can also email him at jschmitz[at]
2013-05-21 09:25:36
Not on facebook, so email sent I hope he does a more comprehensive article than just the 4 foot law, but we shall see
2013-05-21 10:51:18
I left a comment on the facebook page... My major point is that we need better public education of all laws, not just the cycling related ones.
2013-05-21 12:37:12
I left a comment.
2013-05-21 13:43:55
I spoke with him today.
2013-05-21 15:44:44
Left comment on Fb page, repeated here for posterity: I think hardly anyone knows what the rule is, and those that do, do not know how to comply. If I am to the right of the white line, I get buzzed at 18" or less, as if to say four feet doesn't matter if the bike is on the shoulder. If I am in the right 1/4 of the lane, maybe half of the drivers give me four feet, some give me a dangerous and unnecessary 15 feet. Hardly anyone slows down, maybe 1 in 20.
2013-05-22 14:45:56
Does it go both ways? Example: There is a backup on 5th at the intersection with Shady. I filter through traffic and make a right on Shady. Do the cars that I passed have the right to pass me at a distance less than 4 feet because I passed them with a foot of clearance in the previous intersection?
2013-05-22 16:04:08
That has nice tit for tat ring to it, but it doesn't actually make sense. Big difference between one light vehicle moving at walking speed and a two ton monster and bike moving in parallel. You can control one variable a lot easier than two and the stakes are infinitely lower. Still, the strong emotional resonance in tit for tat arguments is part of the reason why I avoid this many places I don't have to. (Though the possibility of being stuck alongside rather than being out ahead when the light turns green (n/a in your right turn situation obviously) is very real and shouldn't be treated lightly). I do it, however, when the light turned recently, I'm close to the front, and it's a slightly uncomfortable next hill for just riding with the flow.
2013-05-22 16:30:50
Or just sometimes when I'm feeling really impatient...
2013-05-22 16:31:35
I have several situations on my commute that I have to make that decision. My general rule of thumb is to not filter in a situation where cars would have to immediately re-pass me. That just seems discourteous. If I know it's a long enough green that I'll make it through that cycle, I'll just stay in line in traffic. Ideally I'll filter forward just enough to be the last vehicle through the green. And yes, the car would have to pass you with 4 feet regardless of the previous course of events.
2013-05-22 17:24:05
I commented there: I've seen little change. Pittsburgh has a lot of drivers that are ignorant of the law: some think that bicycles belong on the sidewalk, and will honk or yell at you if you don't; some think that cyclists taking a lane is illegal; some think it's good sport to scare a cyclist by revving the engine as you pass them; many have never ridden a bicycle on these streets and are oblivious to the dangers on the road, such as gravel, storm sewer grates, potholes, and car doors, that force us away from the right edge of the road; and many do not know of the four foot rule. PA needs mandatory driver tests every few years!
2013-05-22 20:49:22
Overall, my experience on the road has been better this year than in past years. I am not sure if that is because the rule or some drivers feel a little sorry for cyclists due to so many cyclists being killed or injured as reported on the news. I rarely get buzzed if at all and for the most part people have been pretty cool. I primarily ride in the East End, so that probably helps. My downtown rides are a little more hectic, but still I think it is better now. Of course it isn't great, but still an improvement. Oh and someone mention, "...some give me a dangerous and unnecessary 15 feet." I give cyclists a huge space and it isn't at all dangerous because I do it when there are no oncoming cars. The day I complain about a car giving me a huge space is the day I quit cycling. I love it when a car does that. It is rare, but awesome!
2013-05-23 10:24:20
Buzzed this morning with less than a foot of clearance. License plate HDS-3620, maroon dodge. It's a commercial transport Van. Handicap stickers, probably for transporting handicapped individuals. This was while I was climbing a hill about 100 ft from my house. Couldn't make out the 'how's my driving' phone number. Tried 4 different variations of the number I thought it could be, but didn't get it.
2013-05-23 10:51:54
Benzo, with having the plate number and description, why not call 911?
2013-05-23 12:43:56
I will second this, "some think it’s good sport to scare a cyclist by revving the engine as you pass them"... I've been buzzed by multiple drivers in a row, taking cues from each other - with yells and horn blasts. The 4' law is impossible to enforce, unknown to most, and ignored by the rest. The folks that give a good distance were probably doing that beforehand anyway. I've redirected my routes to more residential streets - I can't afford to up my life insurance any further. You can't change this simple truth: folks get in their cars and act like four year olds. We need exclusive bike lanes to be safe.
2013-05-23 14:46:19
I already replied to this a few days ago, but I did so when I was in a good mood. My response probably would have been different after these two incidents on my morning ride from Squirrel Hill to Pitt:
2013-05-23 16:22:36
to czarofpittsburgh, what type of cam are you using?
2013-05-23 16:41:18
kooklie wrote:to czarofpittsburgh, what type of cam are you using?
It's a ContourROAM. That video was recorded at 720p, but I've since changed the settings to 1080p.
2013-05-23 18:26:52
czarofpittsburgh wrote:I already replied to this a few days ago, but I did so when I was in a good mood. My response probably would have been different after these two incidents on my morning ride from Squirrel Hill to Pitt:
Wow, great cam work. That car that clearly buzzed you, was amazingly ignorant! I confront those kind of people a little more proactively. I have a mirror in use and can see people from behind and if they are aiming for a close buzz I will swerve in front of them erratically and to be honest, this has worked for me for over a year. Before people jump al over this maneuver, I am not going to change something that is working. I scare the drivers enough for them to either brake or swerve to the left away from me. Keeping in mind, I am already back over by the time they pass me. If they come close, they get spit on their car. Oh I also turn and spit in their paths letting them know, it is on them if they get a nice hocker. This all is very rare, but I am ready due to wearing a mirror and I don't trust anyone on the road at all.
2013-05-24 10:19:46
Vannevar wrote: Interesting data on enforcement.
The police in our region don't enforce anything unless it effects them directly. Just look at how poorly mr marv was treated for taking the lane. Why did the police do that? He effected the police and that ego. They wanted to muscle up to him because THEY were effected. The police in our region need a new chief from outside our area. Preferably from NYC. NYC police adopted accountability for sections of the city. It worked. Sure the police hated it at the beginning, but like any change, it is never welcome.
2013-05-24 10:23:37
Ummmmm. I declare this thread closed.
2013-05-24 10:31:38
Ummmmm. I declare this thread closed.
You know, Nazis declared things too.
2013-05-24 10:42:02
Goodwin... Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner! Edit: can we add this to the feature list? Just ask'n.
2013-05-24 10:56:55
reddan went godwin... whos gonna go rule 34?
2013-05-24 11:00:44
The NYC PD is a disaster if you're not white. Recommending it as a response to the situation you describe is Orwellian.
2013-05-24 11:19:51
Buzzed this evening by a driver on N Highland in East Liberty who proceeded to scream at me "I know the law! I know the law! You were out of the door zone!". Exactly. I was out of the door zone. The law gives me that right. The law requires you to give me 4 feet when you pass. Thanks for listening!
2013-05-24 20:37:30
You want Rule 34? Already here on the board. 2008 post
2013-05-24 21:44:21
I was riding home the other night around midnight and I was really impressed with a big "source one" semi that hung back behind me on Morewood although I was "only" doing 18-20mph. When it started to go uphill I slowed down and let him pass. I thought it was refreshing not to have someone try to force their way past at all costs - I even took the time to send an email to the company about it. Of course, to balance things out, in the one mile from there to my house I got buzzed twice - once on Forbes where it's 4 lanes and there wasn't another vehicle in sight, then on Beeler by an asshole who passed me in "the kink" doing at least 40 (I debated pulling a Mick on that one and diving for the sidewalk because I could hear it coming and I knew exactly what was about to happen). Then to top it off, prick #3 ran the red on Wilkins at Beeler, also at a high rate of speed - luckily I was still 20 feet from the intersection when that happened. Ugh.
2013-05-25 06:33:53
I'm bringing this back because I'm wondering if anybody has actually heard of the law being enforced? Twice on Butler Street this season i've been buzzed by drivers in plain view of police and they've been ignored. What reason do drivers have to obey this law (besides avoiding killing people) if it's not enforced ever?
2015-04-29 06:14:18
There's been at least occasional enforcement, sometimes reported here. See @ajbooth's posts. It is hard to get the police to enforce any of the traffic laws, so it's not hard to see that this law doesn't get enforced that often. I think that if you want to get it enforced yourself, you would need at least a video of the close pass, as well as some way to identify the driver (not just a license plate). I think it has had some effect. Riding in Ohio, I noticed more close passes. It may have been the roads, or just my perception, but I think drivers give us more space here, in general. Also see this thread: http://localhost/mb/topic/enforcement-of-the-4-foot-law/
2015-04-29 07:59:59
A relatively large majority of drivers appear to me to be at least trying to obey the law, and many succeed. I have some people hover behind me when there is no oncoming traffic, evidently petrified of crossing the double yellow, and I still get a really close pass every couple of days. This weekend on the Highland Park Bridge I could easily have keyed a couple of cars; I really should have been firmly in the right-hand lane outbound. I have never witnessed any enforcement, though I wonder if the driver who got caught hitting one of us on the 40th St bridge a couple of years ago was also cited for violating the 4' law (that would be delicious). That incident, by the way, was an example of a port authority driver doing right by cyclists, as the driver witnessed the hit and run and sealed the road off.
2015-04-29 08:49:16