Gov. Brown Signs Law Requiring Cars Give Bikes 3 Feet of Clearance

A bill requiring drivers to give bicyclists 3 feet of clearance when passing was signed into California law Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

bike-passing–Richard-Masoner

A new California law will require cars to give cyclists a 3-foot cushion when passing. This image shows a cyclist being passed by a car in San Francisco in 2006. (credit: Richard Masoner)

Promoted by the California Bicycling Coalition as “Give Me 3,” Assembly Bill 1371 was authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford of Gardena. Its official name is the Three Feet for Safety Act.

Existing law requires drives to pass while keeping at a “safe distance,” but the new law establishes exactly what that distance is: 3 feet.

The city of Los Angeles — known for generations as a car-centric locale that presents difficult conditions for biking — sponsored the bill.

In recent years, enthusiasm for cycling in L.A. has been buoyed by the support of a growing activist community and that of politicians such at former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The city in 2010 launched a “Give Me 3″ graphic campaign encouraging drivers to create a safe cushion between vehicles and bicyclists.

Earlier versions of the 3-foot passing law were vetoed by Brown in 2012 and 2011, with the governor expressing concern about certain provisions that troubled Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A simpler version of the law was put before Brown earlier this month.

The law requires drivers who pass cyclists from behind to keep their vehicles 3 feet away. But if traffic or roadway conditions prevent motorists from giving cyclists 3 feet of clearance, drivers must “slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent” and only pass when the cyclist will not be endangered.

Violations are punishable by a $35 base fine, which comes to $154 with additional fees, according to the California Bicycle Coalition. Drivers who collide with cyclists and injure them while violating the law will be subject to a $220 fine.

The law, among 15 signed by Brown Monday, is slated to take effect Sept. 14, 2014.

Twenty-one states have similar laws, according to a list compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures in June.

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