A California law will go into effect in September mandating that motorists must allow cyclists a buffer of at least 3 feet when passing.
The law is intended to reduce the number of traffic deaths caused by motorists hitting the two wheeled enthusiasts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 600 to 700 bicyclists are killed each year and thousands are injured by automobiles and trucks in the U.S.. The Orange County Register reported that in 2012, according to NHTSA statistics, 49,000 cyclists were injured by crashes with motor vehicles.
“Too many drivers fail to realize that the roads are designed to be shared among multiple users, and this includes cyclists,” said the sponsor of the new law, Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena. “Without separate infrastructure in place, cyclists need some assurance that they can operate safely. By giving them a defined amount of space – 3 feet – this bill gives them that assurance.”
Colin Bogart, program director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition explained that, “Mainly, this law is about education – that cyclists need 3 feet of space when you pass them, and that’s really the safest distance.” He says that all cyclists can tell you stories of the inherent danger in sharing the road with motorists.
California Highway Patrol said that they will be vigilant in areas where there is a lot cyclists such as Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains. The CHP plans on making a sustained effort to enforce the new law.
Officer Edgar Figueroa, a spokesman with the CHP said that patrolman are trained in estimating distances and that, “If we see clearly that there isn’t 3 feet whenever there’s a motorist passing, we’re going to enforce that. If there’s a disagreement … we’re just going to allow the courts to decide.”
Motorists aren’t always at fault in many of the collisions. Figueroa asserts that cyclists sometimes make dangerous decisions on the road, are often too aggressive and fail to use proper hand signaling. “Bicyclists have to adhere to the vehicle code; they are considered motorists, too,” Figueroa argues. “So if they do something illegal, if they run a stop sign, or if they are obstructing the street, we’re going to enforce that if we see it.”