Soon after this Bike-to-Work Day, cyclists may get a belated present: A law requiring a buffer zone of three feet between bikes and cars passing them in the same lane.
A bill by state Sen. Al Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, passed unanimously in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee in April and looks likely to coast to approval. Gov. Brown has said if it reaches his desk, he will sign it.
He vetoed a similar bill last year. Along with Caltrans, the CHP and AAA, Brown took issue with a provision in the bill that required motorists who couldn’t observe a three-foot buffer to slow down to 15 miles per hour could create lengthy back-ups or spur rear-end collisions. The provision is not in the current version of the bill.
There is no opposition on file, and AAA is listed among supporters, along with the California Bicycle Coalition, the Sierra Club, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoso and 600 advocates.
“I would call that kind of support overwhelming,” said Keith Higginbotham, press secretary for Lowenthal.
The way it is now, the law only requires drivers overtaking other motor vehicles and bicycles to pass at an unspecified “safe distance.”
Not good enough, says the California Bicycle Coalition. According to the organization, Pass-from-behind collisions are the leading cause of adult bike fatalities in California and the U.S.
Cyclists must often quickly dart around trash, broken glass or potholes, but if a driver is passing too closely, or “buzzing” the rider, the result can be deadly, said Dave Snyder, executive director of the organization.
“One of the problems the law is meant to address comes from a story of a rider who got buzzed by a motorist right in front of a cop,” Snyder said. “The cop said, ‘He didn’t hit you so it couldn’t have been an unsafe pass.’”
The bill will likely go to the Senate floor for a vote next week, Higginbotham said.