LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Starting later this month, bicyclists riding the streets of Southern California will have a little more room to maneuver through traffic.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports drivers will soon face fines up to $250 if they don’t allow at least three feet of space between their vehicle and a cyclist traveling in the same direction.

Under existing law, a driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction is required to pass to the left “at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle,” with only a few exceptions.

But following the passage of Assembly Bill 1371 – known as the “Three Feet for Safety Act” – last September, motorists are prohibited from overtaking or passing a “bicycle proceeding in the same direction at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.”

If a driver cannot clear the three-foot minimum space requirement, he or she must slow to a “reasonable or prudent” speed and “may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle.”

The law’s passage was hailed as a victory for California’s cyclists after 153 were killed in 2012, according to state data.

CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen spoke with Damian Kevitt, a bicyclist who lost his right leg in hit-and-run accident nearly a year and a half ago.

Kevitt said he hopes the new law will prevent more crashes between cars and bicyclists.

“You get collisions between vulnerable road users and bicyclists everyday,” Kevitt said. “Some of them unfortunately are fatalities. It’s happening more and more often these days.”

But some riders have voiced criticism that more legislation may not be the best solution to curbing the longtime habits of Southland drivers and cyclists alike.

“It’s a difficult thing to see a bicyclist that’s making no noise when you’re sitting in traffic to give it three feet,” said Patrick Friday. “I’m pro-bicycle. A fine seems a little harsh unless it’s an absolutely extreme case.”

Some motorists said bicyclists can make the road more dangerous when they don’t go with the flow of traffic.

“I have to slow down and someone can hit me in the back, you know, and then you have a domino effect,” said Gail Cano.

In order to help spread the word, the California Bicycle Coalition is also providing bumper stickers and window clings for free to motorists who want to put them on their car to remind other motorists of the need to pass safely.

“In the end, it’s going to be very important for the safety of everyone, cars and bicyclists, to know that there is a penalty associated with not paying attention to where that other person is,” said Kevitt.

AB 1371 takes effect starting Sept. 16.

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