3-foot bicycle passing law to be tabled by Ontario NDP

The "Radical Reverend" MPP Cheri DiNovo of Parkdale-High Park will be introducing a private members bill to amend the Highway Traffic Act, requiring motor vehicle drivers to give at least 3-feet (or 1 metre for us metric users) of clearance when passing bicycles.

There are about 16 U.S. states that have 3-foot laws, where advocacy is stronger than in Canada in educating politicians and motorists in giving 3 feet.

From the press release:

Cyclists and friends are invited to join in the launch of this Bill at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, May 18:

  • 9:30 am – Rally for Safe Cycling – bring your bikes and your kids and show your support for a new provincial 3 foot law. Front Lawn of Ontario legislature.
  • 10:00 am – Media conference. Queen’s Park Media Studio.

Take the Lane recommends people write to their MPP to ask them to support this bill. With many conservative and liberal states passing the bill (Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, Maine) one would think this bill would have an easy pass. With your push, maybe it will have a chance.


For a mostly clueless population.

Almost got my clock cleaned today by an octogenarian who tried to give me the right hook... made it out but only just, i pulled a nice stoppie. When asked why he cut me off, he told me i was lying and that he passed me carefully. He then told me to stick to the backroads - which we were on... When you're 80 one would think you would be wiser and more patient.

Laws like this make no difference, they are simply lip service to the lack of civic care people have displayed in the GTA for a while.

I look forward to hearing about the first charge laid, maybe i'll get a helmet camera and then the toronto police can bulk-mail out the fines. Think they would?

This will be enforced as well as our bike lanes are.

It is certainly true that this type of law is difficult to enforce, however the real power of this type of legislation is the education component.

Having this added to the Ontario Driver's Handbook & driver testing, along with the press coverage that would accompany this new law, in particular given that it would be a first in Canada, and of course the ability to charge people for contravening it, would all be huge steps in the right direction.

I applaud the NDP and all the cycling advocates involved in helping to move this forward.

The only ways to get a ticket in Toronto are:
- speed
- park illegally
- have an accident

You never get a ticket for how you drive, until there is proof the cop has to get his 905 @$$ out of his cruiser and do the paperwork. This will be one more unenforced traffic law. We wouldn't need bicycle infrastructure if people drove in Toronto with the courtesy they did thirty years ago. Now the way to make most Torontonians into tools is put them behind a wheel.

Also, a three-foot law is stupid, because most drivers here have no sense of the size of their vehicle, and how close they are to people (though take care not to hit inanimate objects). The only way to write the law intelligently is a no lane-sharing law. After all, if the cyclist is far enough from the door zone of parked cars, another three feet puts the driver in the next lane. Yeah, good luck with that law.

Yes, it helps to have such a law there to point at and say "here, look.. 3 feet! count them.. three feet before we meet!". But i have one more nit pick.. a motorist aiming for a 3 foot gap + their car width at 80km/h between me on the right and the oncoming traffic gives me cold sweats. Not that it doesn't happen to me already, but in theory people would be able to call it safe and justices to call it legal... Erm.

I think in this case one size doesn't fit all, i guess that is the problem with common sense though... it isn't common. If we could display the common sense rules from the phase "pass with due care" it would include the guidelines of 3 feet at 0-50km/h and 6 feet at 80km/h.

Comments I've read about the three foot law from the US indicate it's not much enforced unless there's been a collision or an additional violation.

In the same way drivers are supposed to leave a clear lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle on the highway. I see violations of that all the time, but then again I also see many leaving that lane clear, moving left to do so. And that never, or very rarely, happened before the law.

So Yvonne I heartily agree with you about the eductation aspect. Driver education is sorely lacking and I've believed for years it needs a total revamp with emphasis on the responsibility to other road users as the primary aspect, and courtesy as a strong second.

If the 3ft law is passed then aren't all cyclists going to run the risk of a ticket when we use the gap between the cars and the sidewalk to ride past stationary or slow moving traffic ? i agree that it is no fun having a car or truck whizz past too close but this law won't stop that from happening, it'll be just one more thing the drivers can throw back at us. It's when cars are speeding and do it that I have a problem - speeding is already illegal so maybe we should concentrate on better enforcement there.

the proposed law applies to cars passing cyclists, not cyclists passing cars. that said, it should apply to cyclists passing cyclists - ample room is also required in this case.

I am very curious about a "three foot" law. All other distances in the Highway Traffic Act are in metric units.

Also, the original "Radical Reverend" was NDP MPP and cabinet minister Dennis Drainville. He is currently the Bishop of Quebec.

This doesn't exist anywhere in Canada yet though it's in a bunch of the states. In the US of coure it's a 'three foot' law. When (if) it comes to Ontario it'll certainly be metric, probably 1 meter, so we sneek in an extra 3 and a bit inches!

Will bicycles also have to pass cars with 1 meter clearance I wonder?

Jim Kenzie of the The Toronto Star wrote this piece of drivel

I fee that the question we should be asking is: Why did we allow the private use our streets public spaces with such large, heavy machines with so much speed and power and cause so much death and destruction? Why do we allow the operators of these vehicles to kill complete strangers and their own family members with no more than a fine? Why do we continue to allow operators of those machines who have a history of misuse, ineptitude, or negligence to continue to operate these machines? Why do we allow the media to look for excuses to blame everything but the driver when so often it is the driver who caused the crash or collision?
When will we finally hold drivers accountable for the injuries, deaths and carnage that they cause on our streets?

How do we change the attitude of drivers to blame everyone but themselves when they continuously cause crashes?

"This law would force motorists to swerve into adjacent lanes, probably causing even more collisions, in which the cyclists would likely be collateral damage anyway.

Causing more crashes is not the way to improved road safety - for anyone."


lol... brake pedal is right there beside the gas pedal you old douche-bag.

Asking the average person to stop driving is apparently worse than suggesting they go celibate or on a health food diet. Sounds accurate.

The rejection of initiatives that would serve to advance cycling should be regarded as a Red Light blinking on the control panel of public policy.

When bike lanes get nixed it is because somebody in a decision making capacity does not feel there real support for such things; the same could be said about the newly proposed 'three foot passing law', or the proposed trial on University Ave., or Rocco Rossi's attacks on the Jarvis bike lanes.

If these things happened in a city in Northern Europe, people would generally dismiss them has hysterical ramblings, yet in Toronto they grip like velcro.

Get active with your local Ward group (bike union), or tell your co-workers, or write your local politician, but until there is more community support for cycling, little will change for the better.

pennyfarthing ok frye