The Galveston City Council, citing concerns about enforcement, balked Thursday at a proposed new law that would require drivers to make more room for bicyclists on public roads.
In a 6-1 vote, the council deferred an ordinance that would have required drivers to give bicyclists 3 feet or more when passing in a lane of traffic.
The proposal was prompted by two events: the deaths of two bicyclists on city roads earlier this year and the publication of a viral video that showed a bicyclist nearly being hit by a truck while she was riding down FM 3005.
The proposed ordinance would have created a $500 fine for drivers who do not give bicyclists, pedestrians or people on horseback at least 3 feet of space while passing, and 6 feet of space while following.
Similar ordinances have been passed in more than two-dozen cities in Texas, including Houston.
The council was scheduled to vote on the ordinance Thursday, but delayed after police Chief Vernon Hale described the rule as potentially unenforceable.
“I’ve got a lot of concerns with this,” Hale said. “There’s no way to measure 3 feet by the naked eye. It ain’t going to happen. It’s just not a standard you can use in court.”
The city would need to buy a $1,500 device, install it on an undercover bicycle and assign an officer to drive around looking for violators, Hale said.
Hale suggested the city work on a public awareness campaign to improve bicycle safety and noted the city didn’t have any rules requiring bike riders to wear helmets.
Some council members said they wouldn’t vote to pass a law the police department wasn’t fully behind.
“I don’t think making a law is going to make people be nice,” District 1 Councilwoman Amy Bly said. “If you can’t enforce it, why do it?”
District 6 Councilwoman Jackie Cole voted against deferring.
“We need to do something to make people know that Galveston cares about their vulnerable citizens on the road,” Cole said.
The council plans to consider the ordinance again at a meeting in October.
Council members asked the city staff to attempt drafting a passing rule that could be enforced.