The New Jersey Safe Passing Law came into effect on March 1, 2022 and aims to protect “vulnerable road users” (road users not protected inside vehicles) including cyclists, pedestrians, scooters, and people in wheelchairs, from the near misses, injuries, and deaths that occur when motorists pass these road users unsafely.
What does that mean? We promoted the Safe Passing Law on social media and heard from quite a few people who were wondering: Why do we need a law like this? Can I cross the double line? Why can’t cyclists use the shoulder? Why are cyclists and pedestrians in the road? What if cars are coming in the other lane and I can’t pass at least 4 feet?
We have some answers:
- Also known as “Oscar’s Law”, the bill was introduced to protect people like Oscar, who unable to drive a car, was riding his electric bicycle everywhere when he was fatally struck by a tractor-trailer
- 2021 was the deadliest year for NJ bicyclists and pedestrians in 30 years which highlights the need to do more to protect everyone on the road
- According to the law, Drivers must follow all current no-passing, no speeding laws AND move over a lane IF there’s one to move into. So no, you do not have to pass when center lines are both solid, but
- If 4 feet is not possible on a section of road, drivers must slow to 25mph and be prepared to stop until they can pass safely without endangering those sharing the road
- On a single-lane road, drivers must allow at least a 4-foot safety zone when they pass.
- If you see a pedestrian or a bicyclist in the shoulder or riding in a painted bike lane, leave 4 feet between you and the person sharing the road, not the painted line
- Cyclists are legally allowed to take the full lane and can legally ride two-abreast as far to the rights as “practicable”
- When sidewalks are not available, pedestrians can walk in the road, facing traffic
Other people were wondering “why do cyclists have the right to use roads, they are not paying for the roads.” Here’s the thing, we all do, whether you own a car or not, whether you choose to drive or not. Most of the money for roads come from taxes and we all pay taxes including sales and income taxes. The gas tax pays only for a fraction of what it costs to build road infrastructure. Cyclists who do not own a car, pay more into the road system than the infrastructure dedicated to biking alone. Here is more about that.
Most cyclists are also car owners but choose to ride their bike for various reasons including that most of their trips are under five miles and it is easier to bike, or are looking for a more sustainable way to travel. Other people choose to walk or bike for the health benefit of adding more physical activity to their day. For others, one less car on the road means less traffic and cleaner air. Other people have no choice, whether due to income, ability, or age.
Imagine if one day you would be told you can’t drive your car for one reason or another. Now imagine that without your car, you could walk or bike to a store or nearby places to run errands, but you don’t feel safe. Or imagine having children trying to walk and bike to a nearby park and having to worry about them getting into a crash. A little patience and understanding for each other will help us create less congested, safer roads for everyone. Remember what we learned when we were little, sharing is caring.
If you have a question we have not answered here, please let us know, we’ll be happy to get in touch.