As the number of cyclists throughout California continues to rise each year, the state has consistently taken incremental steps toward improving bicycle safety on city streets and highways. This week, bike safety advocates celebrated a major milestone for a law that would require motorists to allow three feet while passing cyclists in most cases, a key issue for the California Bicycle Coalition. Despite spirited opposition, the California Assembly Transportation Committee approved the bill by a vote of 8-5, sending it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Nineteen states nationwide have adopted similar three foot passing laws, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles has suggested three feet as a safe passing distance for motorists. Still, the bill faced serious opposition from union lobbyists and truck driver advocates, who say the law could confuse drivers and even cause additional bike accidents. Still, the opposition repeatedly failed to sway 8 members of the committee. “While the opposition to this bill tried to obfuscate and confuse the committee, members saw through this ruse and did the right thing,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alan Lowenthal. “This simple measure will provide safety to bicyclists while at the same time providing clarity to motorists. This bill is a win-win for everyone.”

California law currently states that motorists should allow a “safe distance” while passing cyclists, but does not specify if this means 6 inches or three feet. But for anyone who has ridden a bicycle on California streets and highways, it’s clear that vehicles routinely do not leave enough room, which can lead to disorientation, destabilization, or even a dangerous bike accident. The three foot passing law clarifies this question at a relatively small inconvenience to individual drivers.

Once the bill passes, it will no doubt make cyclists feel safer on California streets and highways. But just in case, cyclists should continue to obey all traffic rules and wear the appropriate safety equipment while zooming through the state on their bikes. But most of all, enjoy the great bike weather this summer!

Photo credit: ebis50

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Andy Gillin

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. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.