The other three foot rule

This is a little bold for my taste.

A Houston bicyclist is testing a year-old safety ordinance intended to ensure motorists don’t get closer than three feet from riders.

While riding in the designated bike lanes of the Memorial area this month, Dan Morgan has been filming drivers who hit a flag pole sticking out three feet from the side of his bike.

“The whole purpose of the flag was to demonstrate that we exist on the roads,” said Morgan, 47, an automation safety manager. “That flag could have been a person.”

He’s been met with anger from motorists who aren’t acquainted with the law, as seen in the videos he’s collected on his YouTube channel. Most motorists shown are angry about their cars being damaged.

Via Hair Balls, you can see some of the videos Morgan has shot on his Facebook page; here is one example. Note that Morgan is in the little bike lane by the curb – there’s plenty of room to pass him safely. I admire what he’s doing, though I don’t have the cojones to do it myself. We all know there are some reckless bicyclists out there, who ride unpredictably and who ignore the rules of the road. I’ve shaken my fist at more than a few two-wheeled idiots. But whether you like it or not, bikes have the same right to the road as you do, and it’s your responsibility as a driver to pass them safely. Remember, in any confrontation between a bike and your car, the bike and its rider are going to lose, badly. Do you want that on your conscience? If you have to slow down for a few seconds to safely pass a bike, do it. You’ll still get where you’re going. People need to live this, and HPD needs to enforce it. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law.

Did I mention that HPD needs to enforce this law? Turns out, they’re on it.

In Houston, cops are taking a novel approach to arresting jerks who cut off cyclists. They’re going undercover on two wheels, and when things get too tight for the law, they’re calling in for support.

In 2012, if you were cycling around the country, Houston ranked as one of the worst cities to make a stop. Out of 51 American cities in the last Alliance for Biking and Walking report, listed from low to high cyclist fatalities, Houston beat out other lethal cities for number 41.

But Houston could turn itself around, especially now that it’s implementing a “Goal Zero” bike safety program that aims to keep all its cyclists alive. Last Tuesday, Mayor Annise Parker announced a series of changes to the way the city went about its transportation business. Among those changes: Sting operations from plainclothes policemen riding bikes to catch drivers who pass cyclists too closely for the city’s three-foot mandated standard.

“We asked them to put police officers in plain clothes on bicycles with support in the area, so if someone did pass them too closely, they could call on their support to pull over that driver and issue a citation,” explains Mike Payne, executive director of BikeHouston, the organization that originally went to the mayor’s office with the idea. “They just started running special missions, if you want to call them that, where they send people out to different neighborhoods to do this. And they start writing citations and warnings.”

Consider yourself warned. Pass bikes safely, and you won’t have to worry about it.

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