California News

New law requires 3-foot clearance to pass cyclists on roadway

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bicycle riders have tried, and failed, to get a "cushion" law passed before. This time, they succeeded.

A new statewide law orders drivers to provide at least 3 feet of space when passing a cyclist. Violators could face a $35 fine.

Westchester resident Vince Anderson says in the 30 years he has been bicycling, he has suffered numerous injuries after being hit by cars on the road. Anderson welcomes the new law. But he wishes it went even further.

"Three feet, that's all? Yeah, that would certainly help," said Anderson. "I think a majority of the time people don't realize that if they just go to change the radio or just swerve a little bit that's all it takes to hit a cyclist because they can get pretty close. I think a lot of times they don't realize how close they are."

Not all drivers think the bill is a good idea.

"I think that's a little bit too much, actually. If there's a 3-feet rule and there is no other opportunity to go around them, then you're stuck behind a bicyclist for about 20 miles. You are in a lot of trouble," said La Crescenta resident Oscar Alonzo.

According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2010, 4,226 cyclists were injured in collisions with drivers in Los Angeles County, and 25 cyclist were killed.

"Being hit from behind is actually one of the leading causes in fatal collisions between motorists and bicyclists in the state of California, and so this law seeks to address that by giving people a clear idea of the distance that's safe to pass, in this case, 3 feet," said Colin Bogart, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation the last two years. However, those bills would have allowed drivers to cross a double-yellow line to make room for a cyclist or required them to slow to 15 mph when passing within 3 feet.

The governor cited concerns that the previous legislations could spark more crashes or make the state liable for collisions resulting from a driver crossing a yellow dividing line.

"The goal is to slow down for sure and give 3 feet between the car and the bicycle, but you can exercise some judgment," said Brown. "So there's a rule of reason, and really we are going to have to depend on people to exercise good will."

"The enforcement will be done, it is a traffic situation, it's a citation, it's a safety measure," said L.A. County Sheriff's Spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The new law takes effect in September 2014.

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