According to the California Highway Patrol, bicycle fatalities increased 7 percent from 2011 to 2012, the latest year for which statistics were available. Injuries went up by almost 4 percent for the same period. Most of the injuries were to those in the 45-54 and 55-64 age group. Those aged 35-44 were next.
To stem this rising tide of casualties, a new “Three Feet for Safety Act” went into effect throughout the state last September 13. The California Department of Motor Vehicles provides the details:
- Motorists must allow at least three feet of space when passing a bicyclist if both are traveling in the same direction.
- If traffic, roadway conditions, lane or road width, weather, or visibility prevent safe passing, the motorist has to slow down to a “speed that is reasonable and prudent,” such as 10 miles per hour. Passing is only allowed “ when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle”
Passing a bicyclist with a full lane change for the motorist can be the safest method of all because it meets all these requirements.
Fines for violating the law start at $35 and go up to $220 for the motorist during a collision between car and bicycle if the car driver is at fault. Law enforcement is expected to enforce the new law vigorously in the first few months after passage. Officers can use their own judgment in deciding whether violations occurs, although courts are the ultimate arbiters.