Bicycling around Indiana’s country roads, I’ve noticed that many drivers make unnecessarily dangerous passes. The road is wide open, but they still come uncomfortably close to hitting me. But unlike the typical close pass, the driver continues to move to the left after passing me, often driving in the opposite lane for up to a quarter mile. For lack of a better term, I’ll call this the “Indiana pass”. It looks something like this:
Notice this pass consists of:
- A dangerously late and close pass with partial lane change,
- followed by completely changing lanes, well after the cyclist.
Since the driver stays in the far lane for a while, it is clear that they had space to move over early and make a safe pass, but for some reason, chose not to. To make it worse, the driver often seems to forget the extra width of their dual rear axle and trailer. Instead of nearly hitting the cyclist, the driver could have easily made a safe pass:
Notice the steps of the safe pass:
- Begin to move over well before reaching the cyclist.
- Pass at a safe distance. Keep a minimum of three feet between the closest points of the car or truck and the bicyclist. On fast roads with large vehicles, the minimum safe distance may be larger.
- Move back into the lane well after passing the cyclist. Don't forget to leave room for your trailer.
I’ve driven some of the narrower roads in the area while pulling a large trailer with a full size pickup truck many times, so I know that–even in a large vehicle–it is easy to pass cyclists without endangering them. So, I’m not sure why this type of pass is common. It isn’t the typical dangerous driver intentionally buzzing a cyclist; it doesn’t seem fit the usual explanation of driving aggressively to feel faster. The Indiana pass could possibly be mostly done by drivers who like doing slipstream passes, where they close dangerously close to the car they are passing before moving over, trying to draft a little. Beside the normal danger of a drafting pass on open roads, it is ineffective when a car is passing a bike, because the car is almost entirely outside the cyclist’s slipstream. It seems more likely that the Indiana pass is the result of inattention, poor depth perception, and general unawareness. I don’t know what combination of these is the cause, but hopefully this post will contribute a little to stopping the Indiana pass. Remember to keep enough space between yourself and the other cars and cyclists that when the person in front of you makes an emergency stop, you will be able to avoid hitting them.