North Carolina Bike Passing Law

In 2016, North Carolina passed a new law for passing a bicycle on the road. The new law is in the statutes at N.C.G.S. 20-150(e).

The law reads:

The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another on any portion of the highway which is marked by signs, markers or markings placed by the Department of Transportation stating or clearly indicating that passing should not be attempted. The prohibition in this section shall not apply when the overtaking and passing is done in accordance with all of the following:
(1) The slower moving vehicle to be passed is a bicycle or a moped.
(2) The slower moving vehicle is proceeding in the same direction as the faster moving vehicle.
(3) The driver of the faster moving vehicle either (i) provides a minimum of four feet between the faster moving vehicle and the slower moving vehicle or (ii) completely enters the left lane of the highway.
(4) The operator of the slower moving vehicle is not (i) making a left turn or (ii) signaling in accordance with G.S. 20-154 that he or she intends to make a left turn.
(5) The driver of the faster moving vehicle complies with all other applicable requirements set forth in this section.

So what does this law do for bicyclists? Not much in our opinion. Previously, a vehicle could not legally pass a bicycle in a no passing zone. Now, a vehicle can pass a bike (or moped) in a no passing zone provided the vehicle gives at least four feet of space when passing. However, a vehicle can still pass a bicycle in a passing zone with only two feet of space. Does that make sense? We think not.

While it is certainly helpful to require that a vehicle provide at least four feet of space when passing, allowing a vehicle to travel into the on-coming lane of a no-passing zone can be very dangerous.  No passing zones frequently exist for valid reasons such as a blind curve or a rise in the roadway.  This new law would seem to promote some dangerous situations for both vehicles and bicyclists.

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