Last year, I wrote a post for this blog titled “California Lawmkers Get Serious About Bike Safety.” At the time, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his support for a California bike helmet law, and the city’s city council took steps toward endorsing a law requiring motorists to allow 3 feet while passing cyclists. This month, the California legislature has an opportunity to join 18 other states in implementing a 3-foot passing law, which would drastically reduce the number of passing accidents, the number one killer of adult cyclists in California and across the country.

On June 27, the California Assembly Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Bonnie Lowenthal, will consider the 3-foot passing law. GJEL recognizes that increasing the passing distance could save lives, and today sent Sen. Lowenthal a letter of support. The new passing law would have the added benefit of making Californians more comfortable getting on their bikes, which could improve public health and the environment. You can send your own letter of support, too.

California law currently requires that drivers allow a “safe distance” while passing a cyclist, but does not clarify what this means, while the California Drivers Handbook suggests three feet. SB 910, which is sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and the City of Los Angeles, would make this suggestion law and would also legalize crossing a double yellow line in order to pass a cyclist with enough room. Injuring a motorist in a passing accident would carry a $220 base fine (which would reach nearly $1,000 after court fees).

While passing a cyclist closer than 3 feet, “the slightest error by the motorist or a minor shift by the bicyclist to avoid debris or rough pavement can lead to a collision,” says the California Bicycle Coalition. “These aren’t the most common type of car-bike collision, but they’re the most deadly: passing-from-behind collisions are the leading cause of bicyclist fatalities in California.”

Visit the law’s advocacy website for more information. And consider sending a letter to Sen. Lowenthal or another member of the Assembly Transportation Committee. With any luck, this law will pass. But in the mean time, continue to ride safe on California roads.

Photo credit: Dylan Passmore


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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.