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Finally, California Has a Safe-Passing Law!

Good news for all cyclists riding on Calif. roadways came from Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday when he attached his signature to a bill making it law that drivers give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing from behind - only took him 5 years!
September 25, 2013, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Robert Greene of the Los Angeles Times opinion staff writes that the governor's signing of AB 1371 by Assembly member Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) "marks success for cycling advocates following five failed attempts to bring California in line with the approximately two-dozen states that already have three-foot rules on their books or as guidelines in their driver handbooks." However, there is one exception noted five paragraphs below.

As noted here last week, California bills in 2006 and 2008 got stuck in legislative committee, and Brown vetoed iterations of the law in 2011 [also posted in Planetizen], and 2012 citing safety and liability concerns.

An aggressive campaign to pass the bill had been launched by the California Bicycle Coalition and Oakland-based TransForm.

"Three feet is still really close," Bradford Chief of Staff Opio Dupree noted last week, before it was clear whether the governor would sign the bill. "You can almost reach out of your car and touch someone."

Dupree explains that the bill was changed (from last year) in order to meet the governor's concern "that the earlier version of the bill allowed cars to move to the left, across the double-yellow line, to avoid getting too close to a bike when passing."

The version that Brown signed does not permit drivers to cross the line. It instead requires them to slow to a safe and reasonable speed when passing if they can't get three feet away. 

While this legislation took five years to become law, how long will it take motorists to abide by it, and how will it be enforced? The bill specifies that it "would make a violation of these provisions an infraction punishable by a $35 fine. The bill would also require the imposition of a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist causing bodily harm to the bicyclist, and the driver is found to be in violation of the above provisions [effective Sept. 16, 2014]."

I'm not sure how much consolation that will provide to the injured cyclist - assuming the collision doesn't end in something worse.

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Published on Monday, September 23, 2013 in Los Angeles Times - Opinion
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