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Car Can Cross Center line to Give Bicyclists Three Feet Space

Wisconsin has a "3 foot law" that requires drivers passing bicyclists from behind to give an absolute minimum of three feet space.  If the driver cannot get that far over to the left because of oncoming traffic or other conditions, the driver should not attempt to pass the bicyclists.  There is no law that says if a driver is frustrated behind the wheel he or she can disregard the 3 foot law.  There is no law that says if bicyclists are not following the law by riding single or double file that a driver can disregard the three foot law and pass them anyway. 

Some drivers realize that a few extra seconds or minutes on their drive is not a big deal and they wait patiently behind bicyclists for a safe and open area to pass.  Other drivers put themselves at risk along with bicyclists by doing things like passing without giving three feet, and passing a group of bicyclists in the left lane while traveling up a hill. Some drivers have stated that the reason they pass bicyclists without giving three feet is because they refuse to cross the yellow line and go into the oncoming lane. 

Some may chose not to cross the centerline for safety reasons, others may think they cannot legally cross the centerline.  The law in Wisconsin allows crossing the centerline depending on speed.  "The operator of a vehicle may drive on the left side of the center of a roadway on any portion thereof which has been designated a no-passing zone, as described in par. (a), to overtake and pass, with care, any vehicle traveling at a speed less than half of the applicable speed limit at the place of passing." See Wis. Stat. 346.09 (3) (b).

The Wisconsin DOT mentioned the above law in 2012 to remind people in Wisconsin to drive safe during harvest season.  See Below:

It’s been a tough growing season this year for many Wisconsin farmers. To help ease the burden of farmers, motorists can show some courtesy and respect during the fall harvest season by safely sharing the road with agricultural equipment.

To share the road safely, drivers need to slow down immediately whenever they see a florescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear of a tractor or other piece of farm equipment. They also must be alert, focused and patient while trying to pass slow-moving vehicles.

“You should not pass a slow-moving vehicle if you cannot see clearly in front of the vehicle you intend to pass,” says State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald. “Farmers and others using animal-drawn vehicles on a roadway have the same rights and responsibilities as operators of motor vehicles. You should be careful not to frighten the animals. Do not sound your horn or flash your lights near them, and give the animals plenty of room when passing.”

With a recent law change, drivers may pass a slow-moving vehicle in a no passing zone if the slow moving vehicle is traveling at less than one-half of the posted speed limit and the passing can be completed safely.

Vehicles traveling slower than normal traffic must stay as far to the right-side of the roadway as practical. This does not mean slow vehicles must drive on the shoulder of the road although this is allowed if there is room to do so safely.

Superintendent Fitzgerald says, “Common sense, caution, and courtesy will go a long way to keeping our rural roadways safe during the harvest season.”

According to the Wisconsin Driver's Handbook, "Motorcycles and bicycles require special precautions because they are smaller than cars or trucks. That makes them harder to see.  Do not turn left in front of a motorcycle. It may be closer than you think! Watch for motorcycles and bicycles at intersections. When following a motorcycle, leave a bigger space between your car and the motorcycle than if you were behind another car. Remember, motorcycles are entitled to a full lane, the same as a car. To pass a motorcycle or bicycle, wait until it is safe to pass. Then move into another lane as you would when passing a car. Do not return to your lane until clear of the motorcycle or bicycle."