The Three Feet for Safety Act, a state law passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, takes effect today, Tuesday September 16, 2014.
California law has always required vehicle drivers to pass bicyclists on the left and to allow a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bike.
Beginning today, the new law defines that distance. The law states that if it’s not possible to give the 3-foot cushion, drivers should slow down “and may only pass when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle.”
Drivers passing bicycle riders at a closer distance are subject to fines of $35 plus court costs, which increase the cost to $237
The base cost rises to $220 if a collision occurs and the bicyclist is injured.
Bicycle advocates in Palm Springs, the greater Palm Springs area and throughout California hope the law will spur drivers to be more attentive but don’t expect it to be onerous to drivers.
“It doesn’t really change what drivers are already supposed to do,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, which pushed for the law. “But we think that by specifying the distance of 3 feet, drivers will be a little more patient and be safer in passing.”
According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), 153 bicyclists were killed in collisions with motor vehicles in the state in 2012, a 7 percent increase from 2011.
Those deaths account for about 5 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities.
California Highway Patrol spokesman, Mike Harris, said the law is simple.
“Vehicles are required to slow down or give 3 feet, and bike riders are encouraged to ride as safely as possible,” he said.
Some drivers have asked what happens if a bicyclist swerves toward them or tries to squeeze through slow-moving traffic between cars, making it difficult or impossible to stay 3 feet away.
As with any other traffic law, Harris said, officers have discretion when considering whether to issue a citation.
While the new law applies to motorists, CHP officials stressed that bicyclists and drivers share the responsibility for safety.
“The bicycle-car relationship, it’s a partnership on the roadways,” Harris said.
The Palm Springs Guru asks motorists and bicyclists to be aware of the 3 feet for Safety Act, cooperate with others and share the road.