HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Three feet is the legal amount of room drivers should give cyclists on the roadways.
Mississippi adopted this law in 2010 in an effort to promote safety for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.
"A lot of cyclists and drivers may not be aware that, in Mississippi, the bicyclist has the same rights to the road as an automobile," says bicyclist James Moore.
Moore, owner of Moore's Bicycle Shop in Hattiesburg, currently serves as president of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. This has allowed him opportunities to serve as an advocate for cyclists' rights and make necessary changes in state law.
"In the past, you could pass within inches of a cyclist and still be within the law," says Moore. "But because of the numbers of death and injuries, the cycling advocacy groups wanted a little bit more protection for the cyclists."
The need for the three feet law hits close to home for Moore, who had a customer whose life was taken after a hit-and-run accident while cycling.
"Had Mr. Perez been hit prior to that three foot law," says Moore, "it might have just been ruled an accident, not even a crime."
Moore points out that at one point not long ago, there were one dozen fatal cycling accidents just among Forrest and Lamar Counties in a 24-month time frame.
"During that time of the cycling deaths, not one occurred with a cyclist in a bike lane because we did not have any bike lanes paved in the city at that time," says Moore of the positive change the bike lanes have made for the cycling community.
The law does not only protect cyclists from automobiles, but it requires them to follow basic rules on the road, too.
"Cyclists are required to obey the same laws as automobile drivers are," says Moore. "Stop at stop signs, stop at red lights and ride on the right side of the road."
Moore also credits the current city administration for ensuring biker safety in Hattiesburg, pointing out that parts of the current road work around town is to create bike-friendly lanes or expansions of sidewalks.