Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Jeff Roth 3 Foot Law

You may know that Tennessee has a 3-foot law, meaning that bicyclists must receive at least a 3 foot berth from cars when the car is passing the bicycle on a public roadway.

Well, you may not know that the law cannot be enforced by Memphis' Police. The reason?

The Roth Law is a state law, and as such only state police can enforce the law. The loophole has been explained to me in this way: it's all about who gets the money from the ticket.

Now, while it may not seem like a big deal--as far as I know, no ticket has ever been issued under the Roth Law though some of my colleagues in East Tennessee would know far better than I--the takeaway point is that the law has not existed on the books in Memphis.

Now it will:

Memphis Commercial Appeal - Printer-friendly story
Memphis City Council committee passes 8 ordinances

By Amos Maki

Originally published 09:40 a.m., April 7, 2009
Updated 09:40 a.m., April 7, 2009

A slew of new ordinances that match existing state law were approved by a City Council committee today.

The eight ordinances, which cover everything from the open container law to banning phony 911 calls, will still require three readings before the council before they become law. Each ordinance is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 fine.

City Atty. Elbert Jefferson said the city is pursuing the new laws because of changes mandated by the General Assembly through the Tennessee Municipal Reform Act, which required municipalities to pass their own versions of state laws.

Jefferson said city police officers had been writing tickets for offenses covered by the eight ordinances under a catch-all provision, but in the wake of the Municipal reform Act those tickets were being dismissed.

“When we became aware of that restriction, instructions were given to officers to not use (the catch-all provision) and if they did, they were dismissed,” said Jefferson. ”We’ve been working on this to enforce them at a local level as a code violation.”

The new ordinances could provide a fresh stream of revenues to the cash-strapped city. Memphis is facing a possible $15 million deficit this budget year and a $25 million deficit to begin the next budget year, which starts July 1.

“This is all based on generating revenue for the city and enhancing public safety,” said councilman Harold Collins.

The ordinances would:

** ban open containers of alcohol in a car

** prohibit the use of off-highway motor vehicles on highways

** punish vehicle owners who allow an unlicensed driver to operate a motor vehicle

** penalize transporting minors in the beds of trucks

** punish non-emergency 911 calls

** prohibit school bus drivers from using mobile telephones while transporting children

** order drivers to give three feet of clearance when passing bicycles

** ban the operation of low-speed vehicles on city streets.

Collins expressed some concern about overregulation and a money grab by the city. He wondered if parents could be cited for allowing their unlicensed children to drive a car with a parent along as part of driver training, a bonding experience for many children and parents.

“I don’t want our city to be so regulating and looking for the dollar that we can’t have these experiences,” said Collins.


  1. So what are considered low-speed vehicles that would be banned from city streets? Would this include bicycles?

  2. No. I'm guessing that low-speed vehicles will include golf carts etc. Bicycles, as you can see with the new provision, have special protection as slow moving vehicles in the roadway.