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Cyclists vs. Drivers: Tensions Mount as California Mandates 3-Foot Buffer

Cyclists vs. Drivers: Tensions Mount as California Mandates 3-Foot Buffer

A new California State law, which went into effect on Tuesday, requires motorists to give at least three feet of space between their vehicles and cyclists. 

Drivers are complaining that they are being unfairly targeted and requesting that law enforcement apply the same level of scrutiny and accountability to their biking companions on the road.

“I just think there are more dangerous bikers that don’t obey the laws. They always go through stop signs,” said one motorist who spoke with local CBS News affiliate in Sacramento CBS13. 

“I’m not sure another ‘nanny state law’ is going to do anything,” said another motorist in reference to the new rule, which is aptly called the “Three Feet for Safety Act” and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September of 2013. 

Under the new law, motorists who violate the distance requirements would be fined $35. If a cyclist were to become injured while a motorist was in violation of that three foot buffer, then the fine would $200.

CBS reportedly observed a four-way intersection in downtown Sacramento Tuesday to see if what so many motorists had been complaining about on CBS13’s Facebook page was true.

Many users were complaining that cyclists were taking advantage of the new law. One user by the name of AnnMarie Goodwin said, “Haha if you really want to see law breaking come up to the hills of [N]ewcastle/[A]uburn you can catch groups of bikers who don’t even stop at stop signs!” Another by the name of Karen Shephard Sullivan wrote, “I wonder if the law applies when they’re driving the bike on the wrong side of the road as I see many do!”

Several cyclists were witnessed slowing down and then rolling through stop signs — a move that is often referred to as a “California roll” — while others didn’t even bother to slow down and simply rolled through, according to a CBS13 reporter. “Time and time again we saw motorists stopping as cyclists zoomed through,” the reporter said.

The goal of the law is to decrease the number of crashes and to get motorists and cyclists on the same page, according to CBS. They noted that statewide bicycle fatalities have increased over 25% in just three years. 

Sacramento Police officers said that, while they will be enforcing the new law imposed on motorists, they will also be keeping an equally close eye on cyclists to make sure they are following suit and adhering to the same rules while on the road.

One Facebook user suggested the following: “If a bicyclist gets closer than 3ft from your vehicle grab [their] handle bars I bet they will stay 3ft away next time.”

Photo: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

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