If bicyclists in California feel they have a little more space when cars pass today, that’s no accident.
The state of California on Tuesday became the 24th state to require motorists give bicyclists and pedestrians at least 3 feet of space when passing.
The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last September, became effective Tuesday after more than a year of preparation. Brown had vetoed two earlier versions of 3-foot passing bills approved by the legislature.
The 24 states with 3-foot laws are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania (4 feet), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia also requires 3 feet. See details at “24 states require motorists give bicyclists 3 feet or more.”
Violating the 3-foot law calls for a $35 fine plus court costs, which pushes the total to $237. If a motorist passes too close and a bicyclist is injured, the fine can go up to $220, plus court costs.
Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, was quoted in news reports:
“It doesn’t really change what drivers are already supposed to do. But we think that by specifying the distance at 3 feet, drivers will be a little more patient and be safer in passing.”
Something is definitely needed. The CHP reports 153 bicyclists were killed in traffic collisions in 2012.
The Coalition says the law will be invaluable in cases where a cyclist is injured by a passing car. “It establishes a clear basis for citing motorists for unsafe passing.”
Another state that may pass a 3-foot law is Ohio, where House Bill 145 has been reported out of committee.