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Old 01-29-07, 10:44 AM   #1
aadhils
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Now thats cool...

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercu...printstory.jsp

Posted on Mon, Jan. 29, 2007


Cyclists like push for safety in bill
CRITICS SAY PROPOSED BUFFER WILL PUT DRIVERS IN HARM'S WAY
By Edwin Garcia
MediaNews Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - Gladwyn d'Souza of Belmont takes the usual precautions when preparing for a bike ride: He wears a bright yellow jacket, affixes a mirror to the handlebars and hangs a reflective triangle from his seat.

Once on the road, he constantly veers right, to avoid being ``sucked in'' by the vacuum created by trucks that pass too fast, too close.

But d'Souza, 51, and other cyclists may pedal with less angst if the Legislature adopts a measure intended to keep motorists at a safe distance from bicycles. Assembly Bill 60, introduced by Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, would prohibit drivers from passing cyclists unless their vehicle stays at least three feet from the bike.

``It says if a driver passes you close, and there's a police car nearby, they can pull them over,'' said d'Souza, who rides 70 miles a week and advises the city of San Jose on bicycle issues for the task force studying development in Coyote Valley. ``It's a step in the right direction.''

The measure is gaining traction among serious cyclists and also parents whose children ride bikes to school. Still, it faces an uphill climb from the same forces that helped defeat Nava's similar bill last year.

Critics' concerns

Opponents, including the Teamsters Union, worry that drivers forced to swerve around cyclists would place themselves on a collision course with oncoming traffic, especially on narrow roads.

``The bill puts drivers, particularly commercial drivers, in a very difficult place since you're expected to keep a certain distance from bicyclists, and bicyclists are not required to keep a certain distance from you,'' said Barry Broad, a lobbyist for the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.

``What happens when the bicycle comes up by you and gets too close to you,'' Broad said. ``What are you supposed to do, get a ticket?''

Nava introduced the measure after the death of 21-year-old Kendra Chiota Payne, a University of California-Santa Barbara triathlete who was struck by a passing truck while training along the side of a road.

``That was a situation that just cried out for some kind of relief,'' said Nava, a former prosecutor, adding that six states already have similar buffer laws.

The number of injury accidents caused by bike-car collisions have generally declined since at least 1999, according to the California Highway Patrol. The most recent statistics, from January 2006 through September 2006, showed 7,759 injury collisions and 114 cyclist fatalities.

Santa Clara County during that same period logged 475 injury collisions and two cyclist deaths.

A Mercury News analysis in 2005 showed that in the previous five years, 25 cyclists had died in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties after colliding with vehicle drivers. And according to investigators, about half the riders failed to follow a basic rule of the road or lost control of their bikes.

It is not known how many collisions statewide result from motor vehicles passing bicycles.

Under existing law, a driver overtaking a bicycle in the same direction is required to pass to the left at a ``safe distance,'' or face fines of up to $250.

Under the proposed law, a driver passing a cyclist in the same direction must keep ``a minimum of three feet,'' without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle. Violators would face a $250 ticket.

Crossing center line

The measure also allows a motorist to swerve away from the bike and cross the double yellow line into a center turn lane. Under existing law, that center lane can only be used to make left turns and, in some places, U-turns.

But driver safety groups worry that using the center lane for passing could lead to head-on collisions.

``You can conceivably get into a situation where you've got bicycle traffic on both sides of the roads, and you've got two drivers in the center lane,'' said Sean Comey, spokesman for AAA of Northern California. ``You can have two vehicles accelerating toward each other in the same lane, in the opposite direction.''

AAA of Northern California opposed the measure last year but hasn't taken a stance this time. ``Ultimately we share the goal of trying to decrease injuries and deaths,'' Comey said. ``It's just a question of how you achieve that goal.''

The previous measure failed in the Assembly Transportation Committee in April when five Republicans opposed the bill, two Democrats favored it, and six Democrats didn't vote.

GOP opposition

Republicans are likely to fight the measure again.

``I think this is a bill in search of a problem,'' said Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-Livermore. ``I think you can make an argument that it would degrade safety for automobile drivers if you start going into ongoing traffic.''

Nava said opponents should use common sense: ``I'm not asking anybody, with this bill, to drive head-first into a semi.''

He's encouraged by similar buffer laws in Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Florida. ``And if those states have figured it out,'' Nava said, ``we should, too.''

Nava believes the bill stands a better chance now that a crucial factor is riding in his favor: He was recently appointed chairman of the transportation committee.
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Old 01-29-07, 11:12 AM   #2
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These 3 feet passing laws are good gestures, but they are just that, gestures.
When the last time someone got cited for rolling past the stop line at a traffic light?
When the last time someone got cited for blocking a crosswalk?
When the last time someone got cited for changing lanes without signaling?
When the last time someone got cited for <insert mundane law here>

On paper these laws look great, but they are never inforced. It's just another cite for an officer to pile onto a different cite if they decide they don't like you.
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Old 01-29-07, 11:15 AM   #3
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Bad idea.

Better idea: Lower speed limits on narrow roads.
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Old 01-29-07, 11:18 AM   #4
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Completely missing from the article is the simple observation that no one is forcing anyone to make an unsafe pass.
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Old 01-29-07, 11:25 AM   #5
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3 feet is stupid. At low speeds it's more than is required, and high speeds it's too little.

The "motorist safety" arguments against it are absurd, however, as John just pointed out: "Completely missing from the article is the simple observation that no one is forcing anyone to make an unsafe pass." If you can't slow down in time for a cyclist up ahead, then you're driving too fast, by definition. If you want to drive that fast, then get on a freeway, where cyclists and other slow moving vehicles are banned (except for shoulders in some sections).
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Old 01-29-07, 12:16 PM   #6
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*Sigh*...
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Old 01-29-07, 12:32 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by aadhils
*Sigh*...
Can you explain?
I live in a state with a 3ft passing law and it doesn't make a difference.
Al
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Old 01-29-07, 12:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
The "motorist safety" arguments against it are absurd, however, as John just pointed out: "Completely missing from the article is the simple observation that no one is forcing anyone to make an unsafe pass." If you can't slow down in time for a cyclist up ahead, then you're driving too fast, by definition. If you want to drive that fast, then get on a freeway, where cyclists and other slow moving vehicles are banned (except for shoulders in some sections).
+10.

The basic problem is motorists feel they "own the road" and nothing should "be in their way." They have forgotten that they should ALWAYS share the road.

As far as three feet being not enough... it is a start... it is putting something into the minds of motorists who up until this time may just as easily have only given inches to cyclists. You are right that "dynamic" spacing is better... but this is a start.
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Old 01-29-07, 12:49 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by genec
it is a start... it is putting something into the minds of motorists who up until this time may just as easily have only given inches to cyclists.
That is a minor benefit - it gives a legal backing for a 'slogan' cycling advocates can use.

Something like "Give cyclists 5' (even though 3' is the law)"
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Old 01-29-07, 12:53 PM   #10
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Here is background on the AZ law with notes on similar laws in other states:
http://azbikelaw.org/articles/ThreeFoot.html

Al
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Old 01-29-07, 02:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
Can you explain?
I live in a state with a 3ft passing law and it doesn't make a difference.
Al
It means that now that it's legal, I have something to flap in the drivers face and call em names if they try to be all macho...
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Old 01-29-07, 03:35 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by aadhils
It means that now that it's legal, I have something to flap in the drivers face and call em names if they try to be all macho...
Huh, you lost me.
Al
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Old 01-29-07, 03:38 PM   #13
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I think he's saying that if it becomes law, then he'll be able to cite that law when drivers pass too closely.
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Old 01-29-07, 03:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
I think he's saying that if it becomes law, then he'll be able to cite that law when drivers pass too closely.
Oh like being able to post to BF "how was your commute today" thread that in addition to seeing 78 drivers violate speeding laws and stopping laws I witnessed an addtional 19 break the new 3' passing law.

They way I see it is that if traffic is moving slow enough that one can confront a driver, then it is slow enough that less that 3' is most often not a concern - in fact the cyclist themself may find themselves re-passing closer than the motorist was allowed to pass them. But when traffic is moving faster 45mph+, then 3' is often not enough anyway and if a driver does violate it, you barely gonna get their plate number let alone have a discussion with them.

In 5 years no one in AZ has ever been cited with passing closer than 3' (except in one, maybe two fatality cases) - does that mean it is an effective law reducing close passes, or does that mean it is a law that in unenforcable (either thru inaction or thru enforcement complexities)?

Al
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Old 01-29-07, 07:00 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by noisebeam
But when traffic is moving faster 45mph+, then 3' is often not enough anyway and if a driver does violate it, you barely gonna get their plate number let alone have a discussion with them.
If the next light is long enough you'll get there in time. I've given a couple of drivers an earfull over the three foot law (includinig a bus driver this morning). That law means I can write the transit autority a letter about the incident.
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Old 01-29-07, 07:45 PM   #16
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All those motorists objections are absurd! So, you worry about crossing into oncoming traffic or using the center lane to pass? What is your alternative then? Mow down the cyclist? Is that the only alternative you can think of? Is that actually an OK alternative to you? Sheesh!

The purpose of a law like this is so that next time there's an accident like Kendra Payne's they can give the driver a stiffer penalty. And hopefully there won't be another accident like Kendra's because people might think a little before they try to send a cyclist over a cliff.
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Old 01-29-07, 07:51 PM   #17
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How is the penalty stiffer than unsafe passing, an existing law? In either case $250 is not what I'd call stiff.

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Old 01-29-07, 08:07 PM   #18
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The arguments being presented against this bill re-define inane.

"accelerating toward each other in the same lane, in the opposite direction.'' ?
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Old 01-30-07, 05:41 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
All those motorists objections are absurd! So, you worry about crossing into oncoming traffic or using the center lane to pass? What is your alternative then? Mow down the cyclist? Is that the only alternative you can think of? Is that actually an OK alternative to you? Sheesh!

The purpose of a law like this is so that next time there's an accident like Kendra Payne's they can give the driver a stiffer penalty. And hopefully there won't be another accident like Kendra's because people might think a little before they try to send a cyclist over a cliff.
Gee, I can think of an alternative, slow down and wait until it's safe to pass, just as you would if it were another car in your lane, that was going slower then you would like.
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Old 01-30-07, 08:01 AM   #20
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I think the whole 3-foot distance is completely arbitrary and open to interpretation. How can anyone prove a motorist was passing within a 3 foot space? It's a 'guesstimate' at best and those don't work well in a court of law. Heck a cyclist could even be veering around road hazards at the precise moment of the pass and suddenly be within a foot of the passing car/truck without it being the drivers fault. The motorist will state he/she believed they had afforded the 3-feet, but the cop and/or cyclist say otherwise. How is the judge/JP to rule? Word against word. No cop is going to cite someone because he/she knows if it goes to court it is unprovable and they're not going to waste their time. It's not like most cops really give a damn about cyclist safety anyway.

Perhaps those who pass and/or enforce traffic laws should simply insist upon proper lane changes when passing cyclists, that a motor vehicle must fully enter the adjoining lane (on 4 lane or more roadways) or half a lane on single lane roads. At least then, it is much easier to distinguish by sight whether a motorist has given appropriate distance between themselves and the cyclist.

It wouldn't hurt the state/province to embark on a comprehensive awareness program now, in advance of the spring cycling season, to remind motorists to adopt a safe conduct, share the road attitude when encountering cyclists, particularly in urban areas. It wouldn't hurt for them to insist that law enforcement get serious about targeting motorists who needlessly, recklessly and purposefully endanger cyclists either and pursue them with due vigilance.
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Old 01-30-07, 08:09 AM   #21
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I think the whole 3-foot distance is completely arbitrary and open to interpretation. How can anyone prove a motorist was passing within a 3 foot space?
If a motorist hits you... they violated that 3 foot space. Pretty simple.
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Old 01-30-07, 08:35 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Completely missing from the article is the simple observation that no one is forcing anyone to make an unsafe pass.
Yup. The implication from critics is that why should we be any more inconvenienced about something that doesn't belong on the road...
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Old 01-30-07, 11:38 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
If a motorist hits you... they violated that 3 foot space. Pretty simple.
The current law requires passing at a safe distance. The problem is that the motorist can always claim the cyclist suddenly swerved into his path. I don't see how the ability of the motorist to make the same claim would change with this law.
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Old 01-30-07, 11:43 AM   #24
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Here is an example of me riding left biased in a BL. A truck/trailer passes and doesn't adjust their lateral position, instead I do to avoid a very close pass. I had also held my left hand/arm in slow down well before they passed.

YouTube otpWDv8d24M - Bike Lane pass
If they had passed me within 3' who is at 'fault'? Me riding left biased in BL or the truck driver for not merging left?

Does the bike lane stripe and surrounding laws/expectations of usage affect responsibility for close passes and should it?

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Old 01-30-07, 01:25 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
The current law requires passing at a safe distance. The problem is that the motorist can always claim the cyclist suddenly swerved into his path. I don't see how the ability of the motorist to make the same claim would change with this law.
Three feet is a lot of swerve. Try to recall your high speed swerve techniques from Road 2. When moving that fast a swerve of inches was typical.
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