California Trying to Pass Law Protecting Cyclists

As more and more cyclists are traveling on America's roads, legislation protecting their safety is trying to keep up.

In the nation's largest state, bicycle safety is close to getting a huge boost.

California Bill SB 910 has moved through the California State Legislature and is awaiting a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. The bill, which has been in the works for most of 2011, would prohibit drivers of motor vehicles from passing a bicycle going the same direction on the road without at least 3 feet of space between the vehicle and the bike. Previous California law requires a "safe distance" but no tangible measurement.

In addition to the 3-foot rule, SB 910 would require that drivers do not pass a cyclist going more than 15 miles per hour faster than what the cyclist is traveling.

Violation of the proposed law would result in a $35 fine for the first offense, with the fine increasing to $220 if the violation resulted in a collision.

After lengthy debates, the bill passed through the California State Assembly by a 44-25 vote on September 6, then breezed through the Senate for a second time by a 27-11 vote two days later. It is now awaiting action by Jerry Brown, who has until October 9 to sign the bill into law or veto it. If he does neither before the deadline, the bill automatically becomes law without his signature.

If it becomes a law, California would become the 20th state to enact a minimum passing distance law, all of them at least 3 feet. Georgia is the most recent, passing a 3-foot minimum rule earlier this year.

California SB 910 was co-sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and the city of Los Angeles.

Proponents of the legislation argue that the law not only will make the road safer for cyclists, but will also give drivers a better idea of the proper way to share the road with cyclists. It also gives courts more specific language to enforce California's safe passing requirements.

"Simply, by making it clear that a motorist must 'give three feet' when passing, we are likely to save lives," the CBC wrote in an letter to the governor's office.

The Governor's office has a page where emails can be sent to him regarding the bill. Go to the governor's email page and select "SB00910\Vehicles: bicycle: passing distance" under the subject you are choosing to address.

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