San Diego bicyclists get state protection from aggro drivers

“Three Feet for Safety Act” signed into law

On September 24, Governor Brown signed bill AB 1371, better known as the “Three Feet for Safety Act,” which will require motorists to give at least three feet of space when passing a bicyclist on the road in California. The law also states that drivers must slow down and pass only when it will not endanger the bicyclist.

When I spoke with Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, he said a reasonable speed is what is required of drivers to pass, but he said that that speed hasn’t been determined as of yet. Drivers must slow down and only pass when reasonably necessary. Bicyclists, by law, are allowed to ride in the middle of a lane, sometimes angering motorists.

“Sharrows” — the image of a bicycle with arrows above it painted in white onto our city streets — have popped up all over San Diego; they are meant to point out to motorists that a bicyclist is allowed to be in the middle of the road.

Colliding with a bike from behind is the cause of 40 percent of all fatalities between a bicyclist and a motorist, according to’s website.

While the law will not take effect until September 16 of 2014, the website further states that motorists who violate its provisions now will still be fined for illegal passing. This will entail a $35 base fine, plus the fee, which would bring the total to $233. The base fine will increase to $220 if a collision occurs, causing bodily harm to the bike rider.

“The law is [for raising] awareness,” Hanshaw said, “a tool to calm down aggressive driver behavior.”

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While drivers should be as careful as possible around bicyclists, cyclists need to show some common sense and respect to drivers. Riding a bike in the middle of a lane and slowing down the driver behind you is incredibly rude, irresponsible and stupid.

If a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to share side-by-side, riding in the center of the lane is the safest place for a bicyclist. If you hug the curb, drivers will try to squeeze past you when there's not enough space, so you have to be somewhat assertive to prevent that. More details here:

I would think walking - or even riding - your bike on the sidewalk would be a better option in that scenario. Riding in the middle of a lane and impeding traffic might be legal but it is certainly rude and inconsiderate.

Sorry, but you are obviously ignorant of the law. A bicyclist is allowed to take up the whole lane, but of course shouldn't do it to slow a driver down. You are one of those drivers I'm worried about being "aggro" with a bicyclist.

Then I don't understand your sentence "Bicyclists, by law, are allowed to ride in the middle of a lane, sometimes angering motorists.". Why would a motorist be angry at a cyclist riding in the middle of a lane unless the cyclist is slowing down the driver?

Do drivers lose their tempers when they have to pass a mail delivery vehicle, a school bus, a trash truck, an old VW van, or other slow moving vehicle? What makes a cyclist different? One would think passing a cyclist safely would be even easier than passing a slow moving vehicle with a wider profile. It looks like simple bigotry to me. It becomes dangerous when bigots act out their fantasies while operating a potentially deadly machine.

I think rational, people do tend to get angry any time the driver of another vehicle shows a clear lack of respect for their time and/or safety. If there are 2 cars driving 60 mph down a freeway with 2 lanes, for example, I find this irritating and I do tend to get angry. I do all I can to avoid doing anything dangerous - tailgating or dangerous passing. But I cannot deny that in situations when I am driving and the operator of another vehicle is impeding me without an obvious reason I do tend to get irritated - as do most people.

On the other hand, when I ride a bike I do all that I can to avoid impeding progress of other vehicles.

I can legally drive my car down the road at 10 mph and back up traffic too, doesn't mean I should or that I should be surprised if other drivers are upset with me. What does "aggro" mean??

I believe you can get a ticket for driving too slowly, like you suggested you could do "legally." Contact the DMV, and ask them about it. Driving at that speed could cause an accident.

Here is my beef with this new law. We have a new cult of adults out riding bikes. This is a good thing, in many ways. However, these folks have decided they have rights, when infact they do, but they are taking them in the wrong way. If their children went out and road their bikes around the same way mom and dad does, there would be hell to pay at home. It is just plain dangerous to ride two or three abreast on any street. It is even more disrespectful to others to do so. Time and again I have been held up by a group of bikers. I have been given the finger for suggesting they ride single file. I have had one actually invite out of my car. He was very surprised to meet a 330 pounds of man in a 6'7' , ready for all he had to offer. If those cycling stayed single file, all this cost of painting lines, making laws would not be needed. Packs of bikers create the danger, not the car.

Been riding a bike for a very long time & I totally agree with you. & with the new laws coming out you're going to see more accidents. & what's with the "BIKES OK" arrow in the middle of a lane? very misleading!

I too am a cyclist that think bikes should ride single file. Bbbeyor you are 50+ pounds overweight. Get on a bike, do some exercise and your health will be much better.

dwbat, if I could get a ticket for driving to slowly would that not also apply to a bicyclist? I agree it could cause an accident, that's why cyclists should not do it as well. The general rule of the road is that slow moving vehicles should keep to the right.

This is only so when there are multiple lanes in each direction. How can a trash truck move farther right without leaving the pavement on a narrow road? I don't trust people with fragmentary understanding of the California Vehicle Code. You can't cherry pick the laws you want to follow and ignore the rest. When drivers stop turning left in front of oncoming traffic, rolling through stop signs, playing with cell phones, and obey speed limits, I'll have some sympathy for them. Most drivers flout the law with impunity and don't pay full attention to the task at hand.

While I can't speak for every cyclist out there, I try to remain out of the cars way by riding on the far right of the road. The only time I go into the road is out of necessity - if the shoulder has potholes or broken glass. I always check to make sure I don't cut cars off and I thank them. I hope they understand this.

Sharing the road is about being respectful of everyone's mode of transportation; cars, bikes, motorcycles and scooters. I am very happy to see San Diego moving in a direction that protects bicyclists -- because we don't have metal cages protecting us. Making gross generalizations about all bicyclists based on one or two experiences is ignorant. I am excited about this new law and its potential to save lives and increase harmony on the road.

Yes, we all should travel lawfully and courteously – people on bikes too! How about dealing with bicyclists as though they are a friend, grandmother, a human just trying to get around by bike? Did we really need a new law for this? Existing CVC about this that few people know about include CVC 21200 “A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” CVC 21202 that states that bicycling is to be done “as far to the right as practicable” but it has many exceptions including when a lane is too narrow for side by side sharing with a motor vehicle. The new official signs stating the “[Bike] May Use Full Lane” and the new pavement markings called Shared Lane Markings (Sharrows) are placed to inform us all that people bicycling may lawfully be in the way when necessary. CVC 21750 states, “The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to the limitations and exceptions hereinafter stated.” The new law is intended to remind motorists that safe passing is required and to clarify that “I didn't hit you” is not the definition of a safe pass; at least 3 feet is desired. Don’t believe me? Get out on a bicycle to feel how dangerous a close fast pass can be… yikes! Yes, sometimes a person using a bicycle may have to, for their safety, be in the way of others, in the same position in a lane that a motorcycle or other vehicle would use. Yes, it really is better/safer for bicycling to be lawfully where others can see and respond appropriately. The new law CVC 21760 will state (See Calif. AB 1371 for official text), “(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway. (c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. (d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.”

Thanks JimBaross and others for succinctly clarifying this important new law. For the rest of you, I hope we don't meet on the road when I'm bicycling....yikes!

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