California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. vetoed a bill for the second time on Friday that would require motorists give bicyclists a 3-foot gap when passing.
This time, Brown objected to a provision that allows motorists to cross a double-yellow line if there’s no room to give 3 feet of space, citing liability issues.
The California Bicycle Coalition, which has been pushing for the bill reacted:
“By vetoing SB 1464, Brown makes clear that he prioritizes legalistic speculation over the safety of Californians.”
Currently, there are 21 states that require drivers to give bicyclists and pedestrians a gap of 3 feet or more when passing (Pennsylvania is 4 feet).
Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, objecting to different provision that said motorists could pass by less than 3 feet only if they slowed to 15 mph. That’s the speed of many bicyclists using the road.
The 3-foot law has been a high priority of the California Bicycle Coalition, and they prevailed on Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach to submit another bill this year. Senate Bill 1464 sailed through the Legislature until it reached the governor’s desk.
“I applaud the author’s continuing work to improve bicycle safety.”
However, Brown did not like the part of the bill that allows motor vehicles to cross a double-yellow line.
“Crossing a double-yellow line is an inherently dangerous act that increases the risk of head-on collisions. When a collision occurs, it will result in a lawsuit where the state is likely to be sued as a “deep pocket.” By making it legal to cross a double yellow line, the bill weakens the state’s defense to these lawsuits.”
Brown said that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) proposed a way to insulate the state from these costly lawsuits while still requiring the 3-foot gap, but it wasn’t included in the bill.
He encouraged the sponsors to work with Caltrans “to resolve the liability issue.”
The California Bicycle Coalition issued a statement that read in part:
“While this provision [double yellow line] was also contained in SB 910, last year’s 3-foot passing bill, concerns about liability were not raised by anyone during the last legislative session. Nor were they expressed during legislative hearings and floor debate about SB 1464, even by the Department of Finance, which tracks the fiscal impact of legislation. In fact, it appears that state law already gives the state immunity from the kind of liability he cites.
“We’re deeply disappointed in the Governor’s action, not least because of the assurances he expressed in his veto of SB 910 and the support for a 3-foot passing requirement he personally expressed to Sen. Lowenthal after last year’s veto.
“Despite our efforts to engage him directly, Brown has offered no indication of how he views bicycling or expressed any ideas for ensuring the safety of Californians who rely on bicycling as everyday transportation. “
Link to Gov. Brown’s 3-foot passing veto message.