3 feet safe passing guide

The 3-feet safe passing ordinance, which City Council passed in 2015, provides rules for how drivers and cyclists interact on Houston’s roadways. The ordinance is designed so that all road users can operate safely and comfortably. 

Bicycles are lawfully permitted to operate in lanes of traffic. They are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk in business districts, and discouraged from operating on sidewalks in other areas for the safety and comfort of pedestrians.

Cyclists are considered vulnerable road users. That classification also includes people who are walking, running, riding horseback, or operating a wheelchair, scooter or moped in a roadway. It also includes stranded motorists, maintenance and utility workers and tow-truck operators.

State Law also allows for bicycles to use the full lane.

Texas Transportation Code § 551.103
“The lane is of substandard width (less than 14 feet in width and not having a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane) making if unsafe for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.”

SAFE PASSING ORDINANCE

Know the law regarding safe-passing of cyclists and other vulnerable road users in Houston.

FULL TEXT

For drivers
  • Drivers are required to give 3 feet of clearance when passing.
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles are required to give 6 feet of clearance when passing.
  • Drivers cannot overtake and cut off a vulnerable road user who is going in the same direction by making a right turn in front of them.
  • Drivers cannot cut off an approaching vulnerable road user by making a left turn in front of them.
  • Drivers and passengers cannot throw any object or substance at a vulnerable road user.
  • Drivers cannot maneuver their vehicle to intimidate, harass or threaten a vulnerable road user.
  • The penalty for violating the ordinance is a fine not to exceed $500.
For cyclists
  • A police officer must observe the unsafe pass to make a traffic stop.
  • If a cyclist is violating traffic laws at the time of an incident, they may not be protected under the ordinance.
  • For an incident to rise to the level of assault or attempted assault, someone must knowingly and intentionally attempt to hurt you. For example, a crash is not an assault unless someone intentionally hits you.  Also, yelling and honking alone is not an assault.

If you think you are the victim of an assault or attempted assault, the Houston Police Department suggests the following:

  • Try to get information on the vehicle: license plate number, make, model and color.  If possible, also get a description of the driver and witness information.
  • Call the HPD’s non-emergency number, 713-884-3131 and file a report.
  • For emergency help, dial 911.

REPORT AN INCIDENT

The Kinder Institute is collecting data on near-miss incidents and crashes on Houston’s roadways. This data is important to identify trouble spots in the city and make improvements.

REPORT

TRAFFIC SKILLS 101

This four-hour course is designed to teach adult cyclists how to ride with confidence and competence for pleasure, utility, commuting and sport under various highway, climate, terrain, and traffic conditions.

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