Today’s burning question is about the laws surrounding cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. A retiree who enjoys walking, jogging, and biking along Buncombe County roads is wondering if there is a law that dictates a specific minimum distance between motorized vehicles and unpowered pedestrians or bicyclists when a vehicle passes. They thought there was a 36-inch minimum passing distance, and are wondering if that is true in NC.
North Carolina State Laws and Regulations
According to North Carolina State Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Christopher Knox, there are several state laws dealing with this issue. On highways, the driver has to give the cyclist at least 4 feet of distance. “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,” the law says.
Today’s topic revolves around the laws that regulate the interaction between cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. A retiree who is an active jogger, walker, and biker asked Answer Man or Answer Woman whether there is a specific minimum distance that drivers should maintain when passing unpowered pedestrians or bicyclists on the road.
They thought that there was a 36-inch minimum passing distance, and they wondered if this was true in NC. There are several state laws that deal with this issue, and one of them states that on highways, the driver must give the cyclist at least 4 feet of distance. North Carolina State Highway Patrol 1st Sgt.
Christopher Knox cited a state law that provides “limitations on privilege of overtaking and passing.” This law specifies that the driver of the faster-moving vehicle must either provide a minimum of four feet between the faster moving vehicle and the slower moving vehicle or completely enter the left lane of the highway.
According to Aaron Sarver, a spokesperson for the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, pedestrians are not allowed to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway if sidewalks are provided. If sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians walking along and upon a highway must, when practicable, walk only on the extreme left of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction. Such pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to approaching traffic.
North Carolina Laws and Guidelines
In addition, North Carolina law considers bicycles and electric-assisted bicycles as vehicles. Drivers are required by North Carolina General Statute § 20-149 to leave at least two feet to the left of the vehicle they are passing, including bicycles. This information was provided by City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller.
Different agencies have different laws and charges for different violations, and by the time a driver hits a cyclist or a pedestrian and the matter reaches the courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys can argue whether specific statutes apply or not. The best practices for drivers were explained by BikeWalk NC, a membership-based, statewide advocacy organization promoting non-motorized transportation choices for residents and visitors to NC. Some guidelines from the group that cite statute and the North Carolina Driver’s Handbook include: “Faster drivers must yield to slower and stopped traffic ahead. All vehicle operators must travel no faster than is safe and will allow them to stop within their sight distance.
This legal principle is known as assured clear distance ahead.” “Slow or stopped traffic may be present on any road at any time. Drivers must always be prepared to encounter garbage trucks, school buses, farm tractors, construction equipment, police officers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and traffic congestion on most roads. Driving in a way that would endanger other road users who are stopped or traveling slowly is unlawful.”
“Most drivers have no difficulty limiting their speed and seeing and slowing in time to avoid hitting vehicles traveling slowly ahead on the roadway. Impaired driving, reckless driving, distracted driving, and bicycling at night without an adequate rear light or reflector are the primary contributing factors in car-bike collisions where motorists fail to slow in time to avoid rear-ending slower bicyclists.”