A state law requiring a requiring safe passing distance as a motorists passes a cyclists was passed by both the New York Senate on Friday and the Assembly yesterday. While not technically a 3-foot law the term “safe distance” was used after the Assembly balked at a set 3-foot minimum.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale and Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Greenburgh, introduced the bill after Merrill Cassell was struck and killed by a Bee-Line bus Nov. 6, 2009, in Greenburgh. He was riding in the evening near his home on Route 119, where a “ghost bike” memorial now stands to honor him.
Over 50 people come out to remember cycling advocate Merrill Cassell on what should have been his 67th birthday. The rally was hosted by David Wilson, President of the Westchester Cycle Club and co-founder of the Westchester Putnam Biking and Walking Alliance, which Cassell was a member. Cassell’s family and friends were joined by a number of area cyclists, some of which rode to the event to dedicate a “Ghost Bike” in his honor. The bike stands near where he was killed by a Bee-line bus on Nov 6 2009 on Route 119 and Aqueduct Road in Greenburgh to remind motorists to respect cyclists rights to the roads. State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin both spoke about their proposed three-foot legislation, to require a passing motorist to allow a minimum of three feet of space between them and the cyclist. Merrill Cassell’s widow Maximilla and Stewart-Cousins listen to Paulin speak about her proposal for the three-foot law or “Merrill’s Law” Dec. 5 2009. ( Randall K. Wolf / The Journal News )
“The buffer zone is a reasonable and necessary safety precaution for cyclists that often need to maneuver around cracks, potholes or the hazards that cycling on our roads can present,” Stewart-Cousins said. “This legislation will serve to educate the public about the need for motor vehicles and bicyclists to share our roads safely.”
She noted that 42 cyclists where killed in New York State in 2008 and that several states have passed similar 3-foot laws, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Utah.
“We need to embark upon an education campaign to work with motorists to help them understand how best to share the road,” said David Wilson, president of the Westchester Cycle Club and Bicycling and Walking Alliance of Westchester and Putnam.
Wilson has been working diligently on the law’s passage through his many advocacy roles. He’s gotten to know the Cassell family over the past year and had Merrill’s widow, Maximilla speak at the Weschester Bike Summit in May. Wilson said this about Merrill, “Merrill Cassell was an avid cyclist who did his daily errands by bike,” Wilson said. “He advocated on the local level for better biking facilities and safer roads. This bill, which we call Merrill’s Law, will make the roads safer for cyclists and keep his activism in our memories.”
Paulin’s spokesperson shared that Paulin was badly injured by a hit-in-run driver while she rode her bike in Brooklyn as a child. This experience and the accident that killed Cassell made this bill near and dear to her. Paulin had this to say about the bill, “Many other states have already enacted 3 foot buffer laws, and for good reason. We are thrilled that the bill has passed both houses. We have lost many cyclists to fatal collisions with cars, most recently Merrill Cassell. Although we can never rid the world of all accidents, we are confident that the buffer will encourage motorists to act with safety in mind.”