League of Michigan Bicyclists

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Give us 5: Enact a 5-Foot Safe Passing Law

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Support efforts to enact a passing law that defines standards on how to safely pass a bicyclist on Michigan roadways.


LMB is currently working to introduce legislation into the house. Sign up for Enews to state abreast of updates.



The District of Columbia and 23 other states and have safe passing laws. These laws require motorists (when passing bicyclists) to leave a specified distance between the car and the cyclist. Additionally, 19 states have “general passing laws,” which specifically require vehicles to pass bicyclists at a safe distance and speed, but do not provide a specific minimum distance.

Talking Points:

  • Michigan is one of only seven states that has not enacted a law requiring motorists to pass bicyclists safely. The Michigan Vehicle Code currently states, “The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of that vehicle, and when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle, shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.”

    The current “safe distance” language is left to the perspective of the motorist. It is also open to interpretation for law enforcement (and therefore difficult to put into effect). The "safe distance language" does not provide a clearly defined standard for patrol officers to use.

    • A bicycle is not defined as a “vehicle” in Michigan. A bicyclist has “all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” Therefore, it is open to interpretation if bicyclists are actually protected under current standards.

  • Michigan bicyclists face significant risks from motorists passing too closely, even when riding "far to the right" in accordance with state law.

    • For example, large vehicles produce strong air currents and can knock cyclists off course if they pass too closely. One of the most common types of bicycle/auto crashes involve collisions where a motor vehicle strikes a bicyclist while attempting to pass when traveling in the same direction. The Office of Highway Safety Planning reports that 56 percent of bicyclists involved in crashes were “going straight ahead” prior to the crash.

    • Many motorists are unaware of the dangers posed by their actions. Others, intentionally pass closely to intimidate bicyclists.
  • A five-foot passing law will delineate the legal standard for "safe distance” and provide clear guidance to motorists, bicyclists and law enforcement. This will alleviate confusion and frustration.

    • A five-foot standard is supported by both the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Department of State who recently published a joint PSA recommending drivers pass bicyclists with five feet of clearance.
  • A clearly defined safe passing standard will help reduce bicyclist injuries and deaths. It also benefits education and enforcement programs by establishing one, uniform standard across jurisdictions.


League of Michigan Bicyclists




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