Bicyclists must legally ride on roadways. This helps to avoid bicycle traffic on sidewalks, which is dangerous for pedestrians. Because they must ride on the roadway, bicyclists must follow the same road laws that you do in your vehicle. There is one notably exception. A bicyclist is not going to be able to follow the speed limits because they are set too high. This leads to the need to pass them when you encounter them on the road.
The National Conference of State Legislatures explains that there is a lot of disagreement about how to safely pass a bicycle. Some experts say you should pass with at least three feet between you and the bicycle. Others say that is not enough space. Due to this, each state has different laws. Many have embraced the three feet law. Some states require a larger distance and some require a smaller distance.
New York is one of the few states that leaves the distance up to you as the driver of a vehicle. The law simply states that you need to leave a safe distance between you and the bicycle. It is rather vague, so you need to use your judgement.
When passing, you need to make sure that you pay attention to what is happening on the roadway ahead. Make sure that the path is clear for you and the bicycle. If there is a vehicle parked ahead, for example, then the bicyclist will have to swing out into the roadway to get around it, which means you could hit him or her when you try to pass.