Starting on Tuesday, September 16th – drivers in California must now keep a 3-foot buffer-zone when passing bicycles.
The ‘Three Feet for Safety Act’ defines a bike passing law that had previously only called for a “safe distance” between cyclists and cars. The new law requires drivers to slow down or give bikes a minimum of three feet between the bike and the vehicle.
“It doesn’t really change what drivers are already supposed to do,” Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition, Dave Snyder said. “But we think that by specifying the distance of 3-feet, drivers will be a little more patient and be safer in passing.”
In 2012 the California Highway Patrol reported that 153 bicyclists were killed in the state from collisions with motor vehicles, which accounts for 5 percent of the total collision fatalities in California. That’s a 7 percent increase since 2011.
Though $35 for passing a bike to closely may seem like a small fine, it actually adds up to over $200 with court fees, according to reports. If the bicyclist is injured in the act, the fine raises to $220 plus court costs, which can be as high as around $960.
Officials say that there are no plans for a targeted campaign to crack down on motorists following bicycles too closely, but they’re ready to enforce the new law if necessary.
“This is not another fine or a way of penalizing drivers,” said Assemblyman Steven Bradford, a cyclist who wrote the law. The measure, he said, will educate drivers and cyclists alike about sharing the road.
California cyclists are legally able to use the full width of the road and are required to follow the same traffic laws as cars, including stopping at red lights and stop signs. However, the new three-feet law only applies to cars – bicyclists are allowed to pass vehicles at less than three feet.
California is the 24th state to enact a 3-foot passing law, which was pushed for by the California Bicycle Coalition. You can find a FAQ page about the new law complied by the coalition here.