Cyclists will now get 3-feet of safe space

A cyclist is heading to Valley College on a Thursday afternoon.   Agustín Ángel Flores, Staff Photographer

A cyclist is heading to Valley College on a Thursday afternoon.

Drivers in California must give three feet of clearance to bicyclists while passing.

Byline: Agustin Angel Flores, Staff Writer

Valley College bicyclists can ride safely on the streets now that the legislation, known as Three Feet for Safety Act, took effect on Tuesday, September 16.

Assembly Bill 1371, authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford of Gardena, CA and promoted by the California Bicycle Coalition, will require motorists to give at least three feet of clearance when passing someone on bike. If the driver is unable to comply to the new regulations due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver is required to slow down and only pass once it is safe to do so.

“[The law] sounds like a great idea,” said Valley College student Elizabeth Thomas. “I’m gonna have to go look it up because I’ve been hit on my bike a couple times. And drivers don’t really realize even if you don’t touch a bicycle, just if you’re going fast by a bicycle, the negative of air pressure can affect your riding.”

Before AB 1371 came into effect, the existing law required drivers to pass while keeping a “safe distance,” but the new law establishes exactly what that distance is: three-feet.

Drivers will be able to tell if they give at least three-feet “by doing what they already know how to do,” according to the California Bicycle Coalition. “Motorists park their cars with enough space so they can open the passenger-side door — which is about three feet wide — without hitting another car or wall. That’s how much clearance they should give a bicyclist when passing in the same lane. Or, motorists could just simply change lanes in most cases.”

According to different sources, which includes the Southern California Public Radio, the California Bicycle Coalition, and AB 1371, there are more specifics on how the law works:

  • The law applies to any place a vehicle passes a bicyclist, regardless of whether there’s a bike lane in the road.
  • A law enforcement officer must witness a violation to issue a fine. Bystanders’ accounts or video recordings made by the bicyclist — on a GoPro, for example — are not admissible.
  • Violators face at least a $35 fine and a $220 fine if a collision occurs. Both can increase when court fees are added.
  • Motorists are not allowed to cross the double-yellow line to pass a bike. However, police have the authority to exercise discretion when enforcing the law and have consistently said they are unlikely to ticket a motorist who provides three feet of clearance.
  • A bicyclist who passes a motor vehicle by less than three feet –- for example, when pulling alongside a car stopped at a red light — would not violate this law.

Even though this law now protects cyclists, it does not mean traffic regulations do not apply to them. Here are a few more examples of laws, some specific to Los Angeles County, more people should be aware of:

  • Bikers must obey traffic signs and signals like every other vehicle.
  • Many cities have different rules. Biking on the sidewalks in Los Angeles is permitted, for example, but cross into the cities of Beverly Hills or Santa Monica and it’s illegal.
  • You can wear earphones or headphones, but must have one ear open to traffic at all times.
  • Riding while talking on a cell phone is permitted.
  • If you’re a driver and need to make a right turn on a road with a bike lane, safely cross into the right turn lane if there is one. Otherwise, merge into the bike lane before the intersection. Never turn across lanes.

“I think [the law] is great,” said Valley student Vic Mardoyan. “Drivers should be a little more cautious for cyclists. There are way too many accidents that happen, even pedestrians get hit sometimes. Anything to keep people save, especially with the drivers out here. The way they are in L.A. it’s crazy.”

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