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Min 3 in TN Bicycle Law

Minimum 3 in Tennessee Police Chief Eve Thomas, City Council members, and representatives of Bike Walk Knoxville and Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization announceed the “Minimum Three in Tennessee” campaign on Sept. 20, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the World's Fair Park.

This education and enforcement initiative will promote awareness of the Three Foot Law, which requires drivers to maintain a minimum three-foot distance when passing bicyclists.

During the announcement, Knoxville Police Department officers demonstrated ultrasonic devices known as C3FT (pronounced “see three feet”). These devices measure the distance in inches between the bike and passing cars, alerting the officer if the gap is lower than 36 inches (or three feet). 

Officers have identified heavily-used bicycle commuter routes and will implement the program with a two-week warning period before issuing citations for violations of the Three Foot Law (TCA-55-8-175).

Min 3 in TN Bicycle Law“City streets thrive when all of its users—motorists and bicyclists alike—adhere to the law,” said Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas. “Traffic laws are established to save lives and keep all members of the community safe, so we’re happy to get behind this campaign to raise awareness of the Three Foot Law.”

The three-foot minimum has been widely-established nationwide as a safe distance to protect road cyclists from crashes and hazards. In addition to actual collisions, the separation protects bicyclists from side view mirrors and wind bursts. The space also allows bicyclists to safely veer around potholes or road debris. 

The new electronic devices are part of a research effort funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The local non-profit Bike Walk Knoxville helped to secure Knoxville’s part in this new national study. Grand Rapids, Mich., was the other city selected to participate in the project.

According to the most recent year available for NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 30 percent of bicycle fatalities nationwide involve a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist. In Knoxville, 10 percent of these motor vehicle crashes occurred when the bicyclist was struck from behind.

Researchers will compile data on compliance rates and safety results to gauge the effectiveness of Tennessee’s three-foot and Michigan’s five-foot standards. The findings will be used to help other states and municipalities assess implementation of new, safe passing distance ordinances.

Bicycle commuting has increased in Knoxville as resources like greenways and bike lanes have expanded over the years. Since 2012, bike lanes have tripled from five miles to 15.4 miles. In 2015, the City adopted a Bicycle Facilities Plan to outline and prioritize a hierarchy of long-term bicycle facilities infrastructure improvements.

Knoxville has twice been certified a “Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, a designation equivalent with cities like Miami, Los Angeles and Baltimore. The goal is that Knoxville’s participation in this Minimum Three in Tennessee campaign will make bicycling safer and more enjoyable.



On Sept. 20, 2018, KPD Officers demonstrated new ultrasonic devices that will help enforce the Three Foot Law, which requires drivers to give a minimum three-foot distance when passing cyclists.