Give cyclists clearance… or get a fine


A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in a year ago will be implemented this month. The new California law, which will take effect Tuesday, Sept. 16, requires drivers who pass bicyclists from behind to keep their vehicles at least three feet away.

Now imagine some of the roads with little or no shoulder in and around Three Rivers or on the Generals Highway that are becoming more popular with bike travelers. In some areas, it would be impossible to provide three feet of clearance.

Well, the law provides for that too. It states that if traffic or roadway conditions prevent motorists from giving cyclists the three-foot safety buffer, then drivers must “slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent” and only pass when the cyclist will not be endangered.

Fines and fees will range from $154 to $220 for violating the law. The cost will be over $900 if a collision is involved.

Here’s the actual law for AB 1371, the “Three Feet for Safety Act”:

(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.

In adopting the Three Feet law, California joins 24 other states with similar protections for people biking (Pennsylvania requires four feet between vehicles and bicyclists). Bicycling in California has increased 50 percent since 2000, according to the latest census data. In Three Rivers, the number of people bicycling as a means of vacation transportation has significantly increased in recent years. Highway 198 is also a popular training route for cyclists from Valley communities. This new law is just one more way to ensure the growing bicycling community is safe on all thoroughfares, whether that is on rural roads or city streets.

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