New law requires 3-feet buffer space for bicyclists

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SAN DIEGO  - A new law aiming to protect bicyclists on California city streets is set to take effect on Tuesday, September 16.

The new law signed by Governor Brown requires motorists to allow for at least a 3-feet buffer space between a vehicle and a bicyclist. According to the law, if traffic or roadway conditions prevent motorists from giving cyclists 3-feet of space, drivers must “slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent” and only pass when a cyclist will not be in danger.

Violations are punishable by a $35 fine.  Motorists who collide with cyclists and injure them while violating the Three Feet for Safety Act can be subject to a $220 fine.  Under the previous law, a vehicle was simply required to pass to the left at a “safe distance.”

“I hope drivers just pay attention to it. I mean it is going to be hard to enforce, because you cant have a policeman following bicyclists wherever they go,” said San Diego bicyclist, Ben Arguilla.  “It gets close sometimes, and they just don’t realize if they just give us a few extra feet how much safer it is for us.”

State lawmakers have been trying to pass the law for years, but many debate whether it will be effective.

“In the beginning I think it’s going to be an issue keeping up with the exact 3-feet,” said Leroy Huckleberry, who believes road safety is a dual responsibility. “Nobody wants to run into a biker or a pedestrian because everybody knows they have the right of way but we need help too from the folks too, to pay attention to what they’re doing while we’re driving.”

Last week, a 60-year-old man was killed in Chula Vista when his bike collided with a pick-up truck.

Each year in California, more than 100 people are killed and hundreds of thousands more are injured in bicycle collisions. Some bicycle related crashes are connected to the bicyclist’s behavior, while others are due to the motorist’s lack of attention, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Officials said while it may be difficult to enforce the new law at first, the point is to reduce car verse bicycle incidents.

“I try to stay visible and give them the right of way when they need it and hopefully they give me mine when it is my right of way,” said Arguilla.

California is among 24 states that require motorists to give bicyclists 3-feet of clearance while passing, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


  • wes

    Bicycles should not be on the road. This law is why every bicycles run stop signs and believe they will not be killed when they pull out in front of an oncoming car.

    • Devin

      Wes, your comment shows exactly why this law is nessessary. It is, in fact ILLEGAL for bicycles to be on the sidewalk in many parts of San Diego County. Bicycles actually have the exact same rights to the road as a car, by law (CVC 21200(a) Wilfull ignorance of the law is why you are seeing more signs and those “sharrows” biking chevrons in the lanes. As for bicyclists who run stop signs, the same laws apply as to cars & bicycles, either one can get the same ticket for not coming to a complete stop before the stop line.

    • Meg

      I agree street bicyclists are a “PITA” but they do have a right to the road, same as motorists. They’re just out enjoying their hobby and most of them are way more friendly and courteous than car drivers. The ones who have to ride side-by-side in a narrow bike lane make me wonder about their sanity but there are dumb people in every walk of life.

  • dpk

    Looks like it all about the $$$, just like red light cameras. There isn’t anything in the law to suspend drivers licenses…

  • Helena Shamblin

    Alot of bicyclists here in Hemet don’t follow the traffic law. They ride ride on the wrong side of the road, sidewalk, run stopsigns, worst of all, ride at night with no lights! What about them?

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