The roads in Marin and throughout California may become a little safer for bicyclists thanks to a signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown Monday.
Motorists trying to pass bikes will have to stay at least three feet away starting next September, a move that Marin County Bicycle Coalition lauded as much needed, if not long overdue. Brown signed the bill after two straight years of vetoing because it 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.
“Cars passing is probably the single biggest danger to cyclists on the road,” said Andy Peri, the coalition’s advocacy director. “A cyclist who is crowded with less than three feet of space, especially those with parked cars, guardrails or cliffs on their right – that’s a harrowing experience.”
Although the bill won’t go into effect until Sept. 16, 2014, Peri noted that an immediate impact will be for new drivers and those who need to retake the driving test to renew their driver’s license.
“Those folks will soon have an opportunity to know what the new law is,” he said. “The most important thing that provides safety is awareness. If people are aware that this minimum distance is the law, they’re more likely to drive accordingly.”
The biggest change the law will bring is simply clarity, according to bicycling advocates. The California Vehicle Code has always stated that cars "shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle. The new law puts a number on that safe distance determination, adding objectivity when enforcing the law.
A violation of the new 3-foot requirement would be punishable by fines starting at $35. If unsafe passing results in a crash that injures the cyclist, the driver could face a $220 fine.
The law applies when bicyclists are riding in a regular roadway; not when a bicyclist is in a bike lane. (For more FAQs about the new three-foot law, click here.)
AB 1371 does not allow motorists to cross a double yellow line; if there is not enough room to provide a three-foot buffer zone, motorists must slow to a safe and reasonable speed.
The Regional Bicycle Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area, put together by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is looking at "reversing decades of automobile‐oriented development."
The MTC's Regional Transportation Plan through 2035 boosts bicycle spending over prior Regional Bicycle Plan expenditures (from $20 million to $1billion), increases funding for compact transit‐oriented development and launches a new Climate Action Program that will include new programs for bicycle facilities.