Protecting Your Right To Ride

Can motorist cross a double yellow line to give Cyclist Space?

Can motorist cross a double yellow line to give Cyclist Space?

Some states have such hard and fast double yellow line rules that (literally) cyclist have been struck by cars because they driver had an inability to move over far enough even though they were trying.

While many cyclists would say ‘they should have waited for a passing zone’, (and they would be right) many motorists would say ‘the cyclist should have pulled over and let them pass’, and in many situations, they would be right as well.

In this situation in California,  a teenager was stuck deciding to pass in a long double yellow section. While attempting to give the minimum 3′ needed for a safe pass, the road was not wide enough to accommodate both the car and the cyclist, and in an attempt to honor the double yellow line, the inexperienced driver killed the cyclist.

This is tragic for the driver, as well as the family, and the situation could easily be avoided with provisions that allow for, like cited in the above article, passing in a double yellow if the cyclist is going half or less of the speed limit, or other such provisions.

While, anecdotally, experienced drivers understand that passing a cyclist safely is the highest priority and that human life is the cost of not honoring the 3′ rule, an inexperienced driver who had just recently had the double yellow rules cemented into their minds would not likely be able to make a judgement call that would protect all travelers.

Kansas has an exception to their driving laws stated as : “When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway, except that any person so doing shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard.” That allows for drivers to safely wait to pass a cyclist, and then proceed in passing on the left-hand side, regardless of road markings.

From what we have seen, most states do have similar provisions, and common sense says to treat a slow moving cyclist as any other object in the road. While a double yellow line does say that at no point should you try to pass another motor vehicle, you would still do so if one was broken down in a position that was blocking the road, or if there was a tree branch in the road, or etc.

Many states need to clarify their wordage and add education to their driving courses regarding how to share the road with a cyclist. But until they do, if you note that a driver behind you is reluctant to pass or acting irate, it is probably best to slow down and move off the road as much as possible. Polite drivers who have been educated will not expect or require this of you, but better to not break that record on your fitness app then to have a road raging driver side swipe you as they try to get around you!

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