3-Foot Passing Rule: State Lawmakers to Vote Bike-Safety Bill

A bill has passed the State Senate requiring automobiles to pass no closer than three feet to bicyclists. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition supports the proposed law; what do you think?

In the wake of recent collisions that have left bicyclists in Berkeley dead or injured, our question of the week is about SB 1464.

The proposed state law would make it a legal requirement for automobiles to give bicyclists a minimum clearance of three feet when passing. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition supports it.

Here's what the law would do, according to an Assembly analysis:

1)Authorizes drivers on a two-lane highway to drive to the left of double solid yellow or double solid white lines or double  parallel lines, one of which is broken, to pass a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction under certain conditions.  

2)Establishes the "Three Feet for Safety Act" that requires:

a)   A driver overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway to do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the bicycle;

b)   A driver to provide three feet distance between the vehicle and the bicycle or its operator when passing; and,

c)   A driver to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed when  passing a bicyclist if the driver is unable to provide the minimum three-foot passing distance due to traffic or roadway conditions.

3)Makes failure to comply with the "Three Feet for Safety Act" an infraction punishable by a base fine of $35.  

4)Requires a $220 fine to be imposed on the driver of the motor vehicle who is found to be in violation of the "Three Feet for Safety Act" that a collision occurs between a motor vehicle  and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the bicyclist.  

SB 1464 has passed the State Senate and is up for a vote by the Assembly. The governor vetoed a similar bill last year. How would you vote if it were up to you? Share your thoughts below. 

If you'd rather remain anonymous, you may email your comment to emilie.raguso@patch.com.

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Jef Poskanzer August 21, 2012 at 09:43 PM
My usual reaction to proposed new laws is to ask whether enforcing existing laws would accomplish the same purpose. In this case I think yes, it would. Enforcing the 25mph speed limit on city streets, for example, with zero margin. Use of turn signals on every turn, starting 100 feet before your turn as the law requires. Coming to a full stop at every stop sign. Cyclists should of course obey the laws too. However an automobile has approximarely 100 times the potential for bodily harm as a bicycle, and there are approximately ten times as many automobiles on the road. Thus enforcement efforts should be skewed 1000 to 1 towards motorists.
Justin Staller August 21, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I'm thankful to see that there isn't a lot of sympathy for bicyclists, who can be incredibly rude; I ride a motorcycle, which is LIKE a bike except I DO have to pay for registration and insurance, and I am expected to treat other vehicles on the road with the same respect I would want them to afford me. Bicyclists who think that because their mode of transportation requires physical work and therefore exempts them from traffic laws and entitles them to special (unpaid for, unearned, unlicensed) privileges on the roads baffle me.
Kyle August 23, 2012 at 04:43 PM
If there's already a bike lane, then your point is moot: a 3-ft clearance is already built into the design (unless you're driving into the bike lane or if cars are parked in the bike lane, requiring bikes to move out of it). This law is mostly effective for streets without separate bike lanes where the single lane has to be shared. Cost: I've already paid to build those roads through my taxes. My bike weighs 20 lbs and does absolutely no damage to them. Your (and my) car weighs 2,000-4,000+ lbs and does substantial damage (just look at any roadway and see where all of the cracks and potholes are: right where the car tires travel). The cost should be proportional to the amount of damage caused by the vehicle using it. Yet you're asking cyclists to subsidize the cost of the damage from cars? That doesn't make sense. Liability: A 20 lb bike travelling at 15mph will (in most cases) do very little damage to anything/one it hits, except the rider. A 4,000 lb car travelling at 40 mph will usually cause substantial damage and mayhem or death to anything/anyone it hits, yet the driver rarely suffers any damage. 40,000 deaths per year are caused by cars/drivers in the U.S. There's a reason for the imbalance in liability costs.
Kyle August 23, 2012 at 04:49 PM
A car sideswiping a cyclist can easily kill him/her; a cyclist sideswiping a car will injure the cyclist. Cyclists avoid hitting cars out of concern for their safety and lives. (Some) drivers have no such concerns about not injuring/killing cyclists, hence the need for what should be an unnecessary law. The problem is drivers who hit/crowd cyclists, not the other way around.
Justin Thyme August 27, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I'm definitely in favor of this one!


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