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.
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.