A New Law for California: The “Three-foot Rule”

Vehicles are now required to keep at least three feet from bicyclists while passing them on the road, thanks to a new law signed into effect on Monday by Governor Jerry Brown. If vehicles are unable to keep their distance, they are required to slow to a safe speed while passing.

Authored by Democratic Assemblyman Steven Bradford of Gardena, this bill has been written and re-written several times, and even vetoed twice by Governor Brown in 2011 and 2012. This is the fifth attempt for the bill to be passed, with its most recent version written specifically with Governor Brown’s veto in mind. Brown was concerned that vehicles would move to the left and cross the double-yellow line in an effort to give cyclists their space, potentially causing accidents with oncoming traffic. Had collisions occurred under those circumstances, the state would potentially be liable. This new bill does not allow vehicles to cross the double-yellow line, and instead requires drivers to slow to a safe and reasonable speed when passing if they cannot get three feet away.

As Bradford’s Chief of Staff Opio Dupree stated, “three feet is still really close — you can almost reach out of your car and touch someone”. Drivers are encouraged to continue exercising extra caution around cyclists.

Cycling advocates are thrilled that California finally joins the other two-dozen states already enforcing the “three-foot” rule. The number of cyclists has increased dramatically over the past several years, and the passing of this bill is a timely step towards keeping both drivers and cyclists safe.

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