Cars must now give cyclists three feet of space while passing. (<a href="">Gigantic Robot</a>/Flickr)
Cars must now give cyclists 3 feet of space while passing.
(Gigantic Robot/Flickr)

A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Monday requires drivers to give cyclists 3 feet of space while passing on the left or else face a fine.

The law says that the distance will be measured between “any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.” In many situations, that calls for 3 feet between the cyclist’s shoulder or handlebars and the vehicle’s side mirror. Read the full bill.

It’s been a long road for the “Three Feet for Safety Act” to make it to state law. Earlier laws proposing similar regulations failed to pass the Legislature in 2006 and 2008. Brown also vetoed two earlier versions of the bill, based on recommendations from Caltrans.

From the L.A. Times:

Lowenthal’s bill got through the Legislature, but Brown vetoed it. The governor noted that California already required a “safe and reasonable” distance, but he had no problem with nailing down the minimum to three feet. It was the reduced speed that troubled him. Or, rather, that troubled the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans. They told the governor that slowing for a bike could cause other cars to rear-end the driver who was dutifully braking, or that one cyclist could cause an entire line of cars to have to slow down. And in case you were wondering, yes, Brown made it clear that such decelerating would be bad thing.

Brown also vetoed last year’s SB1464, also by Lowenthal, even though the slowing provision was removed. In his veto message, the governor again cited Caltrans, which this time expressed concern that the bill allowed cars to move to the left — over the double-yellow line, if necessary — to keep the three-foot minimum distance from cyclists. Allowing cars to violate the sacrosanct divider and, perhaps, stray into oncoming traffic could make the state liable in case of a head-on collision, the governor wrote.

Read the full story.


The compromise that helped this bill pass is found in Section 3, Part D.  If road conditions make the 3-feet rule unsafe for the driver, they can slow down to a “reasonable and prudent” speed while passing a cyclist by less than 3 feet.

Violators could see a $35 fine. If there is a collision, the fine is increased to $220.

The version that passed today was authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). The bill will take effect Sept. 16, 2014.

Give California Cyclists 3 Feet–It’s Now the Law 26 September,2013Olivia Allen-Price

  • Chris

    Great news!

  • chiggity chokko

    i doubt the police will enforce this as much as stop & frisk but theoretically it sounds good

  • Saul

    Let’s hope the cyclists will give pedestrians the same three feet clearance.

    • ARCreative

      When you’re jaywalking? Nope. Get on the sidewalk, moron.

  • Matt

    Would have liked to see jail time instead of a $220 fine for attempted murder.

    • Sean Mcintier


      But yeah.

  • JM

    People drive too close to cyclist because they are either 1) purposely aggressive or 2) ignorant about how dangerous it is. I doubt that either of these drivers will now change their behavior because it’s against the law.

    • Sean Mcintier

      Because no one wants to get a fine and a mark on their traffic record?

  • Rick

    All recipients of driver’s licenses should be required to ride a bicycle a certain mileage – say 25 or so miles – on regular roadways for the sole purpose of learning how traffic interacts with cyclists.

    • Sean Mcintier

      Has anyone actually never rode a bike?

    • ARCreative

      This actually makes sense… I don’t think drivers understand how annoying some of their overtly “courteous” behavior is. Things like making me stop because you see me coming to a stop sign and you don’t want to take your right-of-way…..downright obnoxious.

  • Rod Graham

    Moonbeam Brown needs to shove his pen up his extremely loose rectum. California got rid of this moron once before, but like the herpes sore he is, he came back to further damage our quality of life. Granted the thoughts and feelings behind this bill are worth considering, but there are laws already on the books which cover this infraction, already. Not to mention common sense & courtesy would dictate the gap due to concern for safety of a fellow human being. Moonbeam is an idiot & should be institutionalized, to protect our safety. Where is the bill that would get that accomplished?

  • guest

    Thank you for that sober and respectful assessment.

    • Phuque Ewe

      An anonymous reply makes your point infinitely more substantial…..

      Way to stand behind your comment…..

      The internet makes it so much easier to hide doesn’t it?

      You are so brave…..

      I hope your mother knows you are up so late…..



Olivia Allen-Price

Olivia Allen-Price is producer and host of the Bay Curious series. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Olivia worked at The Baltimore Sun and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. She holds degrees in journalism and political science from Elon University. She loves to talk about running, ice cream and curly hair.

Follow: @oallenprice

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