Passing in a No Passing Zone – The Primary Exception

Written by Gregory Monte.

This post will be the third and final installment of my discussion of motor vehicle laws related to passing/overtaking.  The first one was about approaching another car on a narrow road, the second was about your obligation when overtaking/approaching a frightened animal on the roadway, and this one is about passing a bicycle in a no passing zone.


No Passing Zones

All states have “no passing zone” statutes and they all pretty much use the same language: Pennsylvania Title 75 (Section 3307), California Vehicle Code (Chapter 3 Article 3), New York Vehicle & Traffic Law (Title VII Article 25), etc.

Here is Pennsylvania’s version:

Where signs and markings are in place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection (a), no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the roadway within the no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed to mark a no-passing zone throughout its length.”

In addition to individual state laws, the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides specific guidelines about how these special zones must be marked: Section 3B.02 No-Passing Zone Pavement Markings and Warrants

“No-passing zones shall be marked by either the one direction no-passing zone pavement markings or the two-direction no-passing zone pavement markings described in Section 3B.01 and shown in Figures 3B-1 and 3B-3.”

Generally speaking, the only exception granted under these state statutes is a situation where an obstruction of some kind is blocking the travel lane (from Pennsylvania Title 75, Section 3301(a)(2)):

When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the roadway, provided the driver yields the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the roadway within such distance as to constitute a hazard.”


The Bicycle Exception – Pennsylvania, North Carolina & Illinois

Which brings me to the title of this blog post. There are a handful of states that allow another exception to the no-passing rule if you are stuck behind a bicycle.  I provide three examples below, but it is quite possible that other states have similar laws.


Pennsylvania – Title 75, Section 3307(b.1):

It is permissible to pass a pedalcycle, if done in accordance with section 3303(a)(3) …”

Section 3303(a)(3) simply adds the caveat that you pass at a safe speed allowing 4 feet of distance between you and the bike.


North Carolina – Chapter 20, Section 150(e):

“The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another on any portion of the highway which is marked by signs, markers or markings placed by the Department of Transportation stating or clearly indicating that passing should not be attempted.  The prohibition in this section shall not apply when the overtaking and passing is done in accordance with all of the following: (1) The slower moving vehicle to be passed is a bicycle or a moped.”


Illinois – Vehicle Code Section 11-703(d-5):

A driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway may, subject to the provisions in paragraph (d) of this Section and Section 11-706 of this Code, pass to the left of the bicycle on a portion of the highway designated as a no-passing zone under Section 11-707 of this Code …”


The legislature of Texas introduced a bill to allow this exception also, but I am not certain if it passed or not because it is listed as “adjourned sine die.” According to The Free Legal Dictionary this means that no date was assigned for further hearing. In any event, the proposed law wouldn’t go into effect until September 1, 2019.


Connecticut Has Many Exceptions

Sec. 14-234. Determination of no-passing zones. Overtaking and passing in no-passing zones.

“The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass, in a marked no-passing zone, pedestrians, parked or standing vehicles, animals, bicycles, electric bicycles, mopeds, scooters, vehicles moving at a slow speed, as defined in section 14-220, or obstructions on the right side of the highway, as listed in subdivision (2) of subsection (a) of section 14-230, provided such overtaking and passing may be conducted safely, with adequate sight distance and without interfering with oncoming traffic or endangering traffic, as defined in section 14-297.”

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