In December of 2016, the City of Ann Arbor unanimously adopted an ordinance requiring motorists to create a five foot buffer between their vehicle and a bicycle on the street when passing. The new ordinance — the so-called Ann Arbor Safe Passing Law — comes on the heels of numerous bicycle fatalities in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County in 2016, and will take effect in January of 2017.
Violation of the local ordinance will be classified as a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of $100, plus court costs. A violation will not go on your driving record, and no points will be assessed.
Police officers will have considerable discretion in enforcing the new Safe Passing Law. If a driver does not allow for a 5-foot passing distance, the officer can decide whether a ticket is warranted. The ordinance is significant because many parts of the city do not have sidewalks, so pedestrians and wheelchair users may end up in the road. There are also many areas without bike lanes.
Ann Arbor city representatives expect that motorists will need to cross the center line to pass a bicyclist, and that they'll be mindful of on-coming traffic when they do so. Just like when they're passing another car or truck, or going around a postal vehicle or delivery van temporarily parked in a traffic lane.
Michigan is one of only seven states that has not enacted a state-wide law requiring motorists to safely pass bicyclists. Michigan's 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.
Under the statute it is the motorist, not the bicyclist, who determines whether there is a "safe distance" to pass. And as anyone who rides knows, there can be a considerable difference in these perspectives.
Both the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Department of State support a state-wide five foot passing law. A state-wide safe passing law would also create a legal standard for "safe distance" and provide clear guidance to motorists, bicyclists, and law enforcement officers.
One of the most common scenarios involving automobile/bike collisions is when the automobile and bicycle are traveling in the same direction and the motor vehicle strikes the bicyclist while attempting to pass. The Office of Highway Safety Planning reports that 56 percent of bicyclists involved in crashes were "going straight ahead" when the crash occurred.
Ann Arbor's safe passing ordinance will help protect bicyclists. While violation of the ordinance does not create negligence in Michigan, a violation can be used as evidence of negligence in bicycle injury cases.
As personal injury lawyers in practice for more than 35 years, we've helped countless clients who have been hurt due to bicycle accidents. We know that when bikes and cars collide, the consequences can be catastrophic, and even deadly - especially for the cyclist.
If you or someone you love was hurt in a bicycle accident, contact the experienced bicycle injury lawyers at Muth Law, P.C. We've dedicated our careers to helping our clients put their lives back together after tragedy strikes. While we're focused on maximizing your financial recovery after a serious injury, we also understand that success is about more than just the outcome of your case - it means peace of mind for you and your family. And many times, that's about more than just money. Because our focus is on easing your financial burden, you'll never pay a fee unless we recover money for you.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with our experienced Michigan bicycle accident injury attorneys. We'll listen as you tell us about your case, and we'll answer your questions based on more than 35 years practicing personal injury law.