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Lead Story Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

New law tells motorists to make room for cyclists

REGION — Three feet, that’s how much space a vehicle must give when attempting to pass a riding bicyclist or another vehicle along the roadways thanks to new amended legislature signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 23. 

The bill, known as AB 1371 or the “Three Feet for Safety Act,” will go into effect Sept. 16, 2014.

It was introduced to the State Assembly in early April by Steven Bradford (D-Gardenia).

The bill’s signing makes California the 22nd state, including Washington, D.C. to help make driving and cycling on the roadways safer.

AB 1371 now defines an exact distance as opposed to how it’s currently described in the California Vehicle Code Section 21750 as a “safe distance.”

As it reads now, the code states that vehicles seeking to overtake another vehicle or bicycle proceeding in the same direction are required to pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to certain limitations and exceptions.

Infractions of this law are enforced by a series of fines.

The new law will continue to be enforced through a series of fines, costing $35 for the first violation and a $220 fine if the infraction results in bodily harm to the bicycle rider.

This was the third attempt to have the bill signed into law, but were previously vetoed by the governor.

“I think for the safety of all bicyclists, it’s good to have in place just about anywhere,” said Andy Hanshaw, executive director at San Diego County Bicycle Coalition when speaking about whether there would be a roadway in particular that could benefit from the new law.

“We’ve seen new bike improvements and safety enhancements come up lately, which has been a welcome thing, too. So legislation like AB 1371…complement and help increase safety, along with a continued push for infrastructure, safety enhancements like we’ve had recently.”

He credited the city of Solana Beach for their improvements made to Coast Highway 101 and also the road diet in Encinitas.

“Safe passing to me, says we want people to slow down, pass safely when they have to and be aware,” Hanshaw said.

“Some of this is common sense,” he said. “If you’re approaching a cyclist you need to slow down, give them enough space before you pass. This gives it that fine definition, and how it’s enforced, we have a year for law enforcement to consider it.”

He said his group will work to help educate people and riders about this as it nears its September implementation date.

Enforcing the new law once it becomes effective will be “challenging,” said Jan Caldwell, public affairs director for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

She said that enforcement will come down to having a deputy being at the scene and witnessing the infraction, and be able to estimate the distance accurately.

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