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3-foot law for California

Old 09-28-11, 06:16 PM
  #1  
lesiz
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3-foot law for California

A 3-foot bicycle passing law has been passed by the Caly legislature and is awaiting Gov. Brown's signature. I favor this law, but I have pause about the part that says a car passing a bicycle can go no more than 15 mph faster than the bike. Imagine that happening on the freeway portions of the 101 or PCH that allow bicycle traffic.

You can read about the law here, and if you want, follow a link to Gov. Brown's page where you can comment on the law.

https://www.active.com/cycling/Articl...-Cyclists.htm?
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Old 09-28-11, 09:01 PM
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I read the law as stating the driver can pass the cyclist with less than 3 feet distance at a speed not greater than 15 mph. That would generally not apply on a freeway.

(b) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator, except that the driver may pass the overtaken bicycle with due care at a distance of less than three feet at a speed not greater than 15 miles per hour, if in compliance with subdivision (a).
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Old 09-28-11, 09:23 PM
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It appears that the summary given on active.com is quite different from what ChadRider quotes. Its hard to believe such an erroneous summary was posted on that site.

I also notice that the fine for first offense was amended DOWNWARD from $100 to $35.

The "safe distance" law exists as stands, except when the car and bicycle are on a "highway"

I can think of a whole lot of places where this is going to really screw up traffic. PCH would be a prime example. I'm also really confused about exactly what the definition of highway is in this context. Don't most highways have explicit signs prohibiting bicycle traffic anyway? What about highways with bicycle lanes? Does the car still have to pass with 3' of clearance if the cyclist is clearly in the bicycle lane? Ride in the bicycle lane on the highway with your left bar end right over the line and you could theoretically completely disrupt the rush hour commute.

Also, I find the mandatory fine of $220 for striking a bicyclist kind of an insult.

Finally - if the car is only allowed to pass at 15mph, they are never going to be able to pass me in my lane, because I'm usually clocking at least 20mph when I ride down PCH.
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Old 09-28-11, 10:30 PM
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haaseg:

1) I should hope being considered "in" a lane would include all parts of the vehicle, such as handlebars and side view mirrors. Even if not, the widest handlebar I've ever heard of would still only stick out 8" past a 6" wide line, assuming the rider was keeping his tire right up against the line the entire time.

2) Most FREEWAYS prohibit bicycles. HIGHWAYS are not necessarily freeways.

3) The 15 mph rule as I see it applies to passing with less than 3'. I assume this allows for instances which I experience frequently such as when I'm waiting to go straight and a car wants to squeeze next to me to make a right hand turn on a red. They often get far less than 3' from me, but the low speed makes it unlikely that I am struck. If you're driving on the PCH, you are likely going to have plenty of chances to pass with more than 3' of space, which allows you to pass at any speed allowed on that road.

Also, I don't mind the first offense being low. It's a good way to educate people of their new responsibilities.
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Old 09-28-11, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by haaseg View Post
I'm also really confused about exactly what the definition of highway is in this context. Don't most highways have explicit signs prohibiting bicycle traffic anyway?
If you look at the California Vehicle Code, you'll see that its definition of "highway" is different from what we usually think of when we call something a highway.

Highway
360. "Highway" is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street.


So the law would basically apply to any road where bikes aren't expressly prohibited.
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Old 09-28-11, 11:20 PM
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Good points.

I was merely suggesting that - if you are riding in the center of a typical bicycle lane, there may be 1 foot of clearance between your furthest extremity and the solid white line. Cars driving in the middle of their lanes may not have a full 2 feet of clearance between the passenger side and the solid white (particularly soccer moms in their big SUVs). If you are riding two-abreast in the bicycle lane - and going 18mph, then a wider car or maybe a light truck might not be able to pass at all.

I think the law should have been written more like the summary misstated - that the car could pass the bicycle at 15mph faster than the bike. Only it should have been 10. Isn't there some kind of law that actually allows the motorcycles to weave between cars in traffic provided they are not traveling in excess of 10mph faster than traffic?

I did find my answer for "what is a highway" though. Get this:
CVC 360. "Highway" is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street.


So I enter the highway every time I back out of my driveway.

One thing is for sure, this is going to make me feel easier about driving around with the trailer. It takes up a sufficient amount of the bike lane that I worry about cars whizzing by really close.
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Old 09-28-11, 11:36 PM
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Nice law. Enforcement is another story.
Have had that law in AZ for years. Cyclists still get hit/killed by car and no tickets issued in most instances..
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Old 09-29-11, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by haaseg View Post
Isn't there some kind of law that actually allows the motorcycles to weave between cars in traffic provided they are not traveling in excess of 10mph faster than traffic?
Sort of. It would be more accurate to say that it isn't illegal for two vehicles to occupy the same lane side by side. There's not a word in the vehicle code regarding the circumstances under which it is permissible for a motorcycle to lane-share. All the guidelines regarding speed differential and overall speed are just informal rules of thumb. However, it is illegal to weave from one lane to another. Lane sharing is supposed to be done entirely within a single lane, though this is often ignored in practice. If a cop sees you lane-splitting on a motorcycle, and thinks that you're doing it in a dangerous manner, they can ticket you for any of several different offenses, but they can't issue a ticket for lane-sharing itself.
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Old 09-29-11, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by haaseg View Post
Good points.

I was merely suggesting that - if you are riding in the center of a typical bicycle lane, there may be 1 foot of clearance between your furthest extremity and the solid white line. Cars driving in the middle of their lanes may not have a full 2 feet of clearance between the passenger side and the solid white (particularly soccer moms in their big SUVs). If you are riding two-abreast in the bicycle lane - and going 18mph, then a wider car or maybe a light truck might not be able to pass at all.

I think the law should have been written more like the summary misstated - that the car could pass the bicycle at 15mph faster than the bike. Only it should have been 10. Isn't there some kind of law that actually allows the motorcycles to weave between cars in traffic provided they are not traveling in excess of 10mph faster than traffic?

I did find my answer for "what is a highway" though. Get this:


So I enter the highway every time I back out of my driveway.

One thing is for sure, this is going to make me feel easier about driving around with the trailer. It takes up a sufficient amount of the bike lane that I worry about cars whizzing by really close.
[/FONT]
Very few roads are so narrow that a minivan would have no space on one side and less than2 feet on the other. The typical road in the USA is 12-14' wide and a Hummer H1 is 7'2" wide. There's no need to stay in the middle of the lane if passing a cyclist in a bike lane. A bike taking part of the lane, however, might be a different story. You can move over until you reach the center line unless someone on the other side is doing the same.

I disagree with the 10 mph over limit suggestion, because even if we're going the same speed, a car hitting me while we're both going 20, 30, 40 mph would be very disastrous... for me. I see where you're getting the idea from, but it just isn't safe imo.

Interesting about the definition of "highway". I always thought there was some requirement to being a main arterial road or something. Guess not.
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Old 09-29-11, 08:27 AM
  #10  
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except that the driver may pass the overtaken bicycle with due care at a distance of less than three feet at a speed not greater than 15 miles per hour,
So as long as I go > 15 MPH's no one will pass me within 3 feet!
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Old 09-29-11, 08:52 AM
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How do you enforce a law on differential speed? Is there some magic radar gun out there that can clock two vehicles at the same time? If not, then you'd need one.
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Old 09-29-11, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by jack002 View Post
How do you enforce a law on differential speed? Is there some magic radar gun out there that can clock two vehicles at the same time? If not, then you'd need one.
Left to the discretion of the officer; same thing with motorcycle lane-sharing.
Another vote against. Enforcement isn't going to happen; this bill will make headlines and serve only to alienate drivers and make them more bike-hostile IMO.
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Old 09-29-11, 09:57 AM
  #13  
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So I kept this in mind this morning while I was driving my car for a change, and there was one section where I found it immediately an issue.

Going Westbound at the intersection of Culver and University, the bicycle lane disappears at the intersection and becomes a straight/right-turn lane. I was at the front of this lane at a red light and I bicycle pulled up on my right. The car in the lane next to me was close to the white line. As the light turned green I tried to keep the new law in mind. The lane may be more narrow here, but coming across the intersection, there was no way I could give the bicycle 3 feet without risking hitting the car to my left. So I lagged behind him the length of the intersection until the bike lane resumed. I was going about 19mph trying to keep 3 feet from my right-front bumper to his rear wheel. There were about 10 angry drivers behind me and at least 2 of them were honking at me.

Now... I'm not angry at the bicyclist. I would have ridden the same way. And I figure - if you're going to have a clip-in accident and fall in front of a car this is exactly the scenario where it's going to happen. But normally, I would have just gone right past him giving him about 2 feet of clearance and everyone would have simply been on there way.


Also, did a bunch of extra reading last night and it seems like there are many regulations for bicyclists on highways that can help ensure 3 feet are possible - always ride as far to the right as possible while remaining safe, etc. Others have expressed their encouragement about new laws educating car drivers, but I have seen enough bicyclists endanger themselves by breaking existing laws. I don't know if I would change my vote even if I could - I think I would error on the side of believing that the existing law is sufficient enough.
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Old 09-29-11, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
Another vote against. Enforcement isn't going to happen; this bill will make headlines and serve only to alienate drivers and make them more bike-hostile IMO.
I respectfully disagree with your conclusion, although I have my doubts about enforcement. I think that giving both the cycling and the driving public the predictability of a reasonably bright-line rule will help in the long run. (It will take a while for driviers to get the word, though.) Most drivers really don't want to screw bikes over. If they know they have to pass with at least a three foot margin, most drivers will try to do it.

The folls who will become "more bike-hostile" because of this already were bike-hostile, and no law short of declaring open season on cyclist will make them happy. Fortunately, such folks are teh vast minority, at least in the Bay Area.

As for teh maximum fine, keep in mind that that does not eliminate any other possible criminal charges (if the circumstances warrant) or civil liability. What it does do is provide a penalty that might actually get enforced where the car does in fact touch the cyclist and causes a crash but does not seriously hurt the cyclist.

Here's where such a fine can help. Imagine a car passes too close, brushed the cylist causing him or her to crash. Imagine the cyclist is lucky and only gets a little road rash, but his or her expensive carbo fiber frame is busted and ruined. If that fine (or any fine) is imposed, it will make it far,far easier for the cyclist to prevail in Small Claims Court (it covers claims up to at least $7,500 now). It is very hard (in theory, impossible, but there's a difference between theory and practice) in this scenario for a driver to win the Samll Claims matter (a civil case) when there is what is in effect a guilty finding in the infraction matter (a species of criminal case).

So all in all, I think this one is a good thing for cyclists.
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Old 09-29-11, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight View Post
haaseg:

Also, I don't mind the first offense being low. It's a good way to educate people of their new responsibilities.
I’m sure the fines are not as low as they appear. We set a $100 fine for no helmet compliance in our skate park. Turns out that after the involved jurisdictions and court system fees are figured in, the fine was $250! We reduced it to somewhere in the $25-$30 range, now it comes to about $100 when all is said and done.

I can’t wait for the law to go into effect. My first correspondence will be to our local transit district. I got passed at speed again today, by about a foot, by a 40’ transit bus. I know those drivers are good, but they are not “that” good.
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Old 09-29-11, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
Here's where such a fine can help. Imagine a car passes too close, brushed the cylist causing him or her to crash. Imagine the cyclist is lucky and only gets a little road rash, but his or her expensive carbo fiber frame is busted and ruined. If that fine (or any fine) is imposed, it will make it far,far easier for the cyclist to prevail in Small Claims Court (it covers claims up to at least $7,500 now). It is very hard (in theory, impossible, but there's a difference between theory and practice) in this scenario for a driver to win the Samll Claims matter (a civil case) when there is what is in effect a guilty finding in the infraction matter (a species of criminal case).
I was thinking about this, and at first I thought that probably it would certainly help bicyclists with insurance claims as the citation would basically state the driver was at fault.

But here's the thing. The existing law certainly covers this scenario. There are probably numerous other laws an office could cite the driver for in this scenario. So the issue in this scenario isn't the language of the law - it's the enforcement of it. If you're hit, you need to make sure the police officer cites the driver for something - doesn't really matter what it is as long as it shows that the driver was either negligent, reckless, or otherwise caused the accident.
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Old 09-29-11, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
Nice law. Enforcement is another story.
Have had that law in AZ for years. Cyclists still get hit/killed by car and no tickets issued in most instances..
I myself would much rather see a law against driving and texting.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:02 AM
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Don't they have a budget to "balance"?
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Old 09-29-11, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
I myself would much rather see a law against driving and texting.
+1!
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Old 09-29-11, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by haaseg View Post
The lane may be more narrow here, but coming across the intersection, there was no way I could give the bicycle 3 feet without risking hitting the car to my left.
Then you could have passed him closer provided your speed was < 15 MPH.
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Old 09-29-11, 12:33 PM
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Well its a start. But really imo, won't be enforced. Just another traffic law that drivers dont know about until an accident happens. How many of us know about the speed limit on the SART? How many of us obey it?......
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Old 09-29-11, 01:48 PM
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Having this helps enforce as evidence and as far as speed I use my Garmin data and overlay it on video with dash ware.
The camera also has a wide angle lens so things are actually closer than they look! plate can also be seen anyone know this idiot! ADADDYO
Even 2 ft would be nice LOL
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Old 09-29-11, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
Then you could have passed him closer provided your speed was < 15 MPH.
Kind of hard when he was going 19 MPH. Try the full quote next time:

Originally Posted by haaseg
The lane may be more narrow here, but coming across the intersection, there was no way I could give the bicycle 3 feet without risking hitting the car to my left. So I lagged behind him the length of the intersection until the bike lane resumed. I was going about 19mph trying to keep 3 feet from my right-front bumper to his rear wheel.
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Old 09-30-11, 12:26 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by haaseg View Post
...the car to my left...
Although I can't seem to find this intersection on a map, that little part right there tells me that there were 2 lanes in the same direction of travel. Although it might bottle neck a tad, if this narrow lane were long enough to make an issue, drivers would have the option to merge into the other lane and pass safely. Since you said it was a short distance, the drivers behind you were getting angry at what likely cost them less than 15 seconds on their commute. This is an attitude many drivers tend to take (I'm guilty of it from time to time), but to be honest, if you're cutting it down to the last 15 seconds or even 1 minute, you left for your destination too late. I try to be aware of how long I hold up a driver when I can't help it, and I have yet to count past 30 seconds. Usually less than 5.

Now as for that cyclist. I'm not too keen on the idea of filtering up the right side. There's no need since the cars are faster and will just have to pass you on the other side of the intersection anyway. I take my place in the cue and slightly off to the right (so I don't get pancaked should the car behind me not notice me). Not only do I get passed less often that way, but I also seem to get a little more respect from drivers since they can see I'm trying NOT to get in their way.

Still, you're probably right that this new law would only be a vain effort to reinforce the existing ones. It attempts to quantify what determines a safe pass and an unsafe pass, but nobody's going to be holding a tape measure between the bike and the car. Still, I sometimes think having a clear definition can make it easier to cite drivers since "pass at a safe distance" leaves a lot to personal opinion. I had to ride down a street I never have before today, and in only 2 miles, I got buzzed dangerously close by 5 cars. One was a pick up truck and I could feel the wind off of the side view mirror. Any cop with a dash cam would have been able to prove that she was far closer than 3 feet. If you pass with 2 feet, I imagine it wouldn't even be clear on a camera and a cop wouldn't even cite it... just like they don't cite until 10% over the speed limit.

One last thing that caught my attention: When you said you left 3 feet between your front bumper and his rear wheel, if you meant you were directly behind him, you were not only misunderstanding the intent of the 3 foot rule, you were tailgating the cyclist, which is much more dangerous than passing him with 2' on the side (in my opinion).
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Old 09-30-11, 12:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
I myself would much rather see a law against driving and texting.
Yeah, but look at how effective the cell phone law has been.
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