On October 1st it will be legal for motorists to cross the solid center line to pass slower-moving bicyclists. This is a big advocacy win for BWNC and the NC bicycling community as we have been advocating for this change for many years; read the BWNC discussion here.
This provision is contained as Section 5.5a of House Bill 959: DOT Proposed Legislative Changes and reads as follows:
(e) The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another on any portion of the highway which is marked by signs, markers or markings placed by the Department of Transportation stating or clearly indicating that passing should not be attempted. The prohibition in this section shall not apply when the overtaking and passing is done in accordance with all of the following:
1) The slower moving vehicle to be passed is a bicycle or a moped.
2) The slower moving vehicle is proceeding in the same direction as the faster moving vehicle.
3) The driver of the faster moving vehicle either (i) provides a minimum of four feet between the faster moving vehicle and the slower moving vehicle or (ii) completely enters the left lane of the highway.
4) The operator of the slower moving vehicle is not (i) making a left turn or (ii) signaling in accordance with G.S. 20-154 that he or she intends to make a left turn.
5) The driver of the faster moving vehicle complies with all other applicable requirements set forth in this section.
This new law is great for motorists especially as many pass in this manner already and now can do so legally. As bicyclists, we want motorists to pass us – and of course the motorist still needs to have assured clear distance ahead and only pass when safe.
The newly stipulated four-feet distance between the faster moving vehicle passing the slower moving (bicycle) vehicle in this scenario is an improvement over the current requirement for all vehicles to pass with a minimum two-feet distance clearance, which for bicycles is unacceptably too narrow to be safe. We believe that these new passing stipulations open the door to considering changing lanes to pass as the preferred default passing mode on all public roadways, including those with solid centerlines.
Viewers can read the full version of the bill here.