Three-Foot Passing Bill Up for Vote at State Assembly Friday

Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. Photo: ## Masoner/Flickr##

A state bill that would require drivers to give three feet of leeway when passing bicyclists in California is headed to the State Assembly for a vote this Friday.

TransForm and the California Bicycle Coalition are calling on supporters to email their Assembly members and urge them to vote “yes.” If approved by the Assembly, the bill could be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September, bringing California in line with 21 other states and the District of Columbia, which have similar laws.

Support for the bill looks strong. The bill sailed through the State Senate in May, and by yesterday afternoon, supporters had sent at least 1,340 letters to their Assembly members, according to the CBC. The real question remaining is whether the bill will be signed by Governor Brown, who vetoed a previous version of the bill last year.

The new bill was modified to address Brown’s complaints about a provision which would have required drivers to slow down to 15 MPH if they are unable to safely provide three feet of room. Instead, the bill would require drivers in that situation to “slow down to a speed that is reasonable and prudent given traffic and roadway conditions and give the bicyclists as much clearance as feasible.”

  • Paul Schimek

    Current law says that anyone passing a bicyclist must do so at a safe distance, and no one may drive at a speed that is not “reasonable and prudent.” The bill will instead force motorists instead to pass bicyclists with 3 feet of clearance, unless they don’t want to, in which case they will have to pass at a safe distance and a reasonable and prudent speed.
    In other words, no change.
    On the plus side, it does legalize crossing a solid yellow line to pass a bicyclist.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t figure out Brown’s position on this, except that he’d never let safety get in the way of a motorist.  

  •  How often have someone been charged with passing a cyclist at an unsafe distance? With this law in place, it will be simpler to make a charge and make it stick – and to pressure a DA who isn’t making a charge.

    The last few years have convinced me that drivers don’t really have a clue what the CVC is. The publicity of this law will bring awareness to this one. Which is a good thing.

  • Riding through GG Park last week I was passed by a speeding motorist in a Ferrari who didn’t give me more than an inch or so. Needless to say, it felt like the closest call I’ve experienced so far.

    When I caught up to him (lot of good the speeding did), I told him that it wasn’t safe and he had an entire lane he could have taken to safely pass. This just pissed him off (naturally), and he started claiming how he supports cycling but I was wrong to take the lane. I quoted CVC 21202 but he didn’t seem persuaded.

    I thought that was the end of it until he flew across Lincoln on a yellow and waited for me to cross the road on the next green. I attempted to avoid him and took a right only to have him locate me a block or so a way. He double-parked his car and started making motions to fight so I ducked into a local store and called 911. While I was on the phone he got out, started yelling, cited his full name and actually took off his license plate and read it out to me.

    Later, when the police showed up he points to me and says “Officers, there’s the asshole!” (it turns out he’d called me in for taking the lane or something.) 

    They took statements from us but eventually declined to do anything stating that they saw nothing personally. I don’t know why double parking your car and yelling in a threatening manner shouldn’t at LEAST get a citation for double parking, but go figure, that’s SFPD for you.

    The next day I saw the same guy in the park who made a point to drive parallel to me for a minute.

    edit: I now record each commute with a helmet cam so if it happens again I’ll have more substantial evidence.

  • mikesonn

    Be safe out here @google-c1054b713ae4d63cc3ebaf620c20fb35:disqus . He obviously completely disregards your safety.

  • Anonymous

    @google-c1054b713ae4d63cc3ebaf620c20fb35:disqus : Damn. That really sucks. And soooo surprising such a self-entitled, reckless jerk was driving a Ferrari … talk about reinforcing stereotypes. But this law will definitely make it easier for you to take legal action against this guy or one’s like him in the future, but the cam is your best weapon. If feel for you. I’ve been buzzed so many times and wanted to tell the person when I caught up to the them at the next light how close they came to hitting me, but they always seem to get away before I get to them. And it never occurred to me that they would try to be a double-jerk and call the cops on *me*.

    If nothing else, the one thing I know for sure: man do we need to get cars out of GGP. Now.

  • @jd_x:disqus / @mikesonn:disqus : yeah, this is why I didn’t hesitate to call the cops. Even though they did nothing, he did admit to him that he’d come too close. Not sure why they didn’t cite him if he admitted to it, but whatever. Bigger point was to send him a message that there is at least some consequence to his behavior.

  • Anonymous

  • Anonymous

     Sean, he is just another entitled narcissistic weenie. I have an
    encounter like that once every couple of years or so. I get buzzed much
    more often (hello white pickup today on California), but, it rarely escalates. Glad you’re physically all right. That the cops didn’t cite with an admission of driving too close and the description that he stalked you in his car is sadly so typical of SFPD response to traffic baffoonery when a car and bike or car and pedestrian are involved – they just want it to go away with the least paperwork possible.

  • Off-topic, but related to the SFPD’s incompetence. This AM I was in the bike lane at 6th and Folsom with one cyclist ahead of me. To my left is a SFPD patrol car and in front of him is a car, nudging itself closer and closer to the cyclist, desperate to make a right turn. This already seems a little dangerous — does he even see the cyclist?

    Then I notice — no signal! Point it out to the cop, who says something that I can’t hear. I watch with anticipation as both make their right turn. You can imagine my surprise when at the next intersection the offender continued straight while the officer made a right turn.

  • Anonymous

    The actual bill is here.  The language “If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c)…”: well maybe sometimes the driver should simply wait before passing. The issue is CBC got spanked last year with its hard and firm passing speed limit, the response being that a hard speed limit was unenforceable. Hard to see how fuzzy language “having due regard for…” can be enforced. But honestly this bill is better than most existing 3-foot passing laws, so I’ll take what I can get.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Berkeley and Los Angeles have laws that allow bicyclists to sue motorists who harass them, with minimum damages of $1000.  The biggest benefit is that it is a civil suit, so the bicyclist can sue even if the police decide to ignore the incident.

    It sounds like SF needs the same to control people like this Ferrari driver.  For more info, see

  • Charles_Siegel

    His reasoning in vetoing the initial bill was that it would be unsafe if, for example, q car driving on a rural road where the speed limit is 45 mph suddenly had to slow down to 15 mph because it was passing a bicyclist.  It might be rear-ended.

    To satisfy that objection, I think they made it too vague.  I would rather have a specific standard, such as “if the motorist cannot pass with 3 feet of clearance, the motorist must slow to 10 mph (or maybe 15 mph) below the posted speed limit to pass.

    That wording would satisfy Brown’s worries about cars being rear ended on roads with high speeds.  Most bicyclists ride on streets where the limit is 25 mph, so that wording would require cars to slow to 15 mph in most cases where they actually pass bicyclists without the 3 foot clearance.

  • ClassicalAmerican

    Great.  Now pass a law requiring bicyclists to wear helmets.

  • Anonymous

    This regulation seems difficult to enforce in a city such as San Francisco. On many busy streets, there isn’t 3 feet of extra space to go around a bicyclist. The best example is 16th street at rush hour. Many bicyclists choose to ride 16th instead of the dedicated bike lane on 17th. I’m scared for them and think they’re making their rides a lot more difficult than they need to, and annoying for drivers. (Yes, I ride a bike, just not on 16th St.)

  • Splob

    “slow down to a speed that is reasonable and prudent given traffic and
    roadway conditions and give the bicyclists as much clearance as

    Great. So what’s the point of this bill again? Brown you’re a d***


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