Just last week we wrote about an unfortunate accident involving a cyclist and a San Francisco Muni bus that left the cyclist with a badly crushed arm. The incident took place, both sides agree, when the cyclist was forced to change lanes by an illegally parked vehicle. The bus, as is the case with the majority of bicycle accidents, approached the cyclist from the rear.

These sort of accidents, where space for vehicles to pass is scarce, are the kind that make cyclists feel unsafe about biking to work or for leisure in an urban environment. They are also exactly the type of accidents that SB 910, a safe passage bill for bicyclists, seeks to minimize through legislation.

A part of the California Bicycle Coalition’s Give Me 3 campaign, SB 910 would formalize the way that most drivers and cyclists already interact by requiring passing vehicles to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing from behind.

It would be a smart move for the state, and CBC lays out the reasoning succinctly on their website:

“Nineteen other states have already enacted a specified minimum passing distance for motorists. The nation’s newest 3-foot passing law took effect in Georgia on July 1, 2011.

A specified passing distance provides drivers with a more objective and easily understood measure of what constitutes “safe” and gives law enforcement and the courts a more objective basis for enforcing California’s safe passing requirement. Most importantly, it helps emphasize a driver’s special responsibility to safeguard more vulnerable road users like bicyclists.”

This last point is important. Often drivers are surprised by sudden adjustments a cyclist may be forced to make. With a mandatory three-foot berth, drivers will be better prepared to respond themselves, and help everyone stay out of potentially life-threatening circumstances.

Initially the progress of this bill was heartening and it passed through the California Legislature on September 8. The bill has now been sent to Governor Brown to be signed into law.

If you would like to improve cyclist safety and encourage Governor Brown to sign SB 910, you can send him a letter.  Make sharing the road easier and safer by helping California become the twentieth state to take this important step.

Photo credit: Richard Masoner

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Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.