September 23, 2013
SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday
he has signed legislation requiring California drivers to stay at least 3
feet away when passing bicyclists.
The proposal from Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, is intended
to better protect cyclists from aggressive drivers. It states that if
drivers cannot leave 3 feet of space, they must slow down and pass only
when it would not endanger the cyclist’s safety.
The law will go into effect Sept. 16, 2014. Current law requires a
driver to keep a safe distance when passing a bicyclist but does not
specify how far that is.
At least 22 states and the District of Columbia define a safe passing
distance as a buffer of at least 3 feet, according to a legislative
analysis of the bill.
Bradford’s bill, AB1371, was sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, an avid cyclist who was injured in 2010 after a taxi
driver abruptly pulled in front of him. It also drew support from
several cyclist groups, such as the California Association of Bicycling
“This gives clear information to drivers about passing at a safe
distance,” said Steve Finnegan, government affairs manager for the
Automobile Club of Southern California, which supported the legislation.
“Everyone using the road needs to follow the rules and watch out for
Brown signed the legislation after vetoing similar measures in 2011
and 2012. Those bills would have 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.
The governor cited concerns that the provisions could spark more
crashes or make the state liable for collisions resulting from a driver
crossing a yellow dividing line.
Some lawmakers who opposed the bill, such as Senate Minority Leader
Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said it would be difficult to estimate a 3-foot
distance while driving, especially when cyclists also might be swerving
to avoid road hazards.
Bradford’s spokesman, Matt Stauffer, said case-by-case enforcement
will be up to local police departments. The overall aim is to remind
drivers and cyclists that they have a responsibility to behave safely on
the road, Stauffer said.
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.