Is the three-foot bicycle passing law working in Baltimore, Maryland?


Maryland (MD) recently became one of fourteen states in the United States to enact a traffic law requiring motor vehicles to pass bicyclists at a distance of greater than three feet. To our knowledge, motorist compliance with the law has never been assessed. This study measured the distance between overtaking motor vehicles and cyclists [e.g. vehicle passing distance (VPD)], to develop baseline metrics for tracking implementation of the three-foot passing law in Baltimore, MD and to assess risk factors for dangerous passes. During September and October 2011, cyclists (n = 5) measured VPD using a previously published video technique (Parkin and Meyers, 2010). Cyclists logged a total of 10.8 h of video footage and 586 vehicle passes on 34 bicycle commuting trips. The average trip lasted 19.5 ± 4.9 min and cyclists were passed on average 17.2 ± 11.8 times per trip. VPDs of three feet or less were common when cycling in standard lanes (17%; 78 of 451 passes) and lanes with a shared lane marking (e.g. sharrows) (23%; 11 of 47 passes). No passes of three feet or less occurred in bicycle lanes (0 of 88 passes). A multiple linear regression model was created, which explained 26% of the variability in VPD. Significant model variables were lane width, bicycle infrastructure, cyclist identity, and street identity. Interventions, such as driver education, signage, enforcement, and bicycle infrastructure changes are needed to influence driving behavior in Baltimore to increase motorist compliance with the three-foot law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-456
Number of pages6
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012



  • Bicycle
  • Bicycle lane
  • Cyclist
  • Risk
  • Safety
  • Three-foot law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Law
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Is the three-foot bicycle passing law working in Baltimore, Maryland? / Love, David C; Breaud, Autumn; Burns, Sean; Margulies, Jared; Romano, Max; Lawrence, Robert S.

In: Accident Analysis and Prevention, Vol. 48, 09.2012, p. 451-456.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle