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Bicyclists Excited About New 'Safe Passing Distance' Law

A new law that requires drivers to give cyclists 3 feet of clearance when they pass by goes into effect later this year.

Bicyclists Excited About New 'Safe Passing Distance' Law
By Bay City News Service

Bicyclists are excited about a new state law set to take effect later this year that will require drivers to give bicyclists 3 feet of clearance when they pass by.

"It will help make things safer for bikers," said Dave Snyder, the executive director of the California Bicycling Coalition.

Bicyclists say the new law, known as the "Three Feet for Safety Act," is important because collisions from behind are the cause of 40 percent of all fatal crashes between a bicyclist and a motorist, according to the biking group.

The current law simply says that drivers must pass cyclists at a "safe distance" but bikers say that's too vague because it doesn't say how much passing distance is safe.

Snyder admits that law enforcement agencies might not have the resources to make enforcing the new law a priority, but he said he hopes that state will publicize the law so that drivers will become more aware of the importance of not coming to close to bicyclists when they pass them.

"As we increase the number of people who bike, bicycling is becoming more common, there's more respect for bikers and more people know someone who bikes even if they don't bike themselves," Snyder said.

He said the California Bicycling Coalition is focusing more on educating the public about the new law instead of enforcing it and hopes the state will post traffic signs about it, especially on roads where there are problems with motorists passing cyclists too closely.

Motorists who violate the new law, which will go into effect on Sept. 16, will be committing an infraction and be subject to a base fine of $35, which is the same as the fine for illegal passing. The fine would increase to $220 if a collision occurs in which a bicyclist suffers bodily harm and a driver is found to be in violation of the law.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law last Sept. 23 after vetoing two similar bills in previous years.

Snyder said the new law addresses the California Highway Patrol's concern that one previous bill was too complicated to enforce and Caltrans' concern that another previous version would have permitted motorists to cross double-yellow lines when they passed a bicyclist.

The new law says that when it's not possible for motorists to give cyclists three feet of space, "the motor vehicle must slow to a reasonable and prudent speed and only pass when no danger is present to the bicyclist."

The new law was authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena. After Brown signed the law, Bradford said called the legislation a "commonsense measure to protect cyclists on our roads."

Bradford said in a statement, "When cars and bikes collide, it often turns to tragedy. This bill is a great reminder that we all have to work together to keep our roads safe for all users."

He said California will become the 22nd state to have a law requiring motorists to require at least 3 feet of distance for motorists who pass bicyclists.

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