Suffolk drivers must give bicyclists 3-foot distance or face fines under new law

SUFFOLK COUNTY (WABC) -- A new law in Suffolk County will allow law enforcement to fine drivers who do not give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing them.

"We hope to educate drivers that passing too closely is a dangerous and potentially deadly threat," said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, D-Port Jefferson, who spearheaded the bill.

Hahn's husband was hit by a car while cycling on the East End.

The law, which was signed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on April 5, states drivers who violate the three-foot distance rule could face fines up to $225 for a first offense, $325 for a second offense and $425 for any subsequent offense.

The minimum distance requirement does not apply on roadways that have clearly marked bicycle lanes.

The new law supersedes New York State motor vehicle law which requires drivers to maintain a "safe distance" when passing bicyclists.

"By amending this law, changing words 'safe passing' to a defined distance of three feet, we're now going to have an absolute rule of law that gives police officers the ability to enforce that law," said attorney Daniel Flanzig, who calls himself the New York Bike Lawyer.

Flanzig has represented dozens of bicyclists injured after being hit by cars.

"This is also going to protect children," he said of the new law.

Flanzig said a similar three-foot distance regulation exists in 33 other states.

"Our hope is that it's going to continue as a wave across the state, until eventually Albany wakes up," he said.

Robert Quan, of Hicksville, was rear-ended by a car in June 2017 while participating in a group bike ride in Dix Hills.

"My bike went under the car and, by the grace of God, I fell over to the side and didn't get run over," he said. "My friend that was next to me, he got run over and he got pushed into a curb and into some bushes."

The driver wasn't ticketed.

Quan, who still experiences pain in his leg and foot from the incident, said he hopes the law makes drivers more aware of bicyclists.

Those with the Suffolk County Police Department applauded the new law and said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "Officers will be on high alert in areas frequented by bicyclists to ensure motorists are complying with the new law."

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