WatchSonoma Watch

Local cyclists support bill to give bikes more space


Motorists will be required to give bicyclists three feet of clearance when passing if Gov. Jerry Brown approves legislation now on his desk.

The proposed law has extensive backing from the Sonoma County bicycling community, which sees it as an opportunity to educate motorists as well as provide some protection to cyclists on the area’s windy, narrow roads.

“It gives everybody a more clear understanding of what is the safe distance to pass a bike on the road,” said Sandra Lupien, outreach director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “While people might know you have to pass safely, having the law adds legitimacy and gives cyclists a way to hold drivers accountable.”

The bill was authored by Democratic Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach and would replace language in the vehicle code that requires passing at an unspecified safe distance.

Eighteen states already have the three-foot rule and four others recommend it in their driver manuals.

“This is a widely accepted standard,” said John Casey, a staff member in Lowenthal’s office.

While most cyclists have stories of being startled after being “buzzed” by a motorist passing too closely, being hit by a passing vehicle is actually the least common collision.

“Most people are amazed at that statistic,” said Gary Helfrich, the coalition’s executive director. “There is a public perception the biggest safety issue is being hit from behind. What this law helps do is give people a little more confidence about riding on the road.”

The consequences of such a collision are serious, usually resulting in a severe injury or fatality, Helfrich said.

Anoush Zebarjadian of San Francisco suffered a severe head injury and was hospitalized for months when he was struck by the side mirror of a vehicle the CHP believes passed intentionally close during the King Ridge GranFondo last Oct. 9.

In 2009, the last year CHP statistics are available, 107 bicyclists were killed and 12,043 injured statewide, although the types of accidents were not detailed.

The bill also requires a cyclist to ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable.

In situations where three feet is not possible, the motorist is required to pass at a speed no greater than 15 mph more than the bicycle is going.

It also allows vehicles to cross over a double line to pass a bicycle. Most drivers do that now on country roads when passing cyclists even though technically it’s illegal.

The bill is opposed by the California State Automobile Association because of the 15-mph passing provision.

“There can be significant issues when requiring a driver to slow down,” said CSAA spokeswoman Cynthia Murray. “How do you determine the exact speed of the bike?”

The bill establishes a penalty of $35 for violating the three-foot rule and a $220 fine for a violation that results in an injury to a cyclist.

A spokesman in Brown’s office said he has not issued a statement on the bill.

30 Responses to “Local cyclists support bill to give bikes more space”

  1. Fabion says:

    let me rephrase my statement. “As a driver u hate pedestrians and as pedestrian u hate drivers but as both u hate cyclist”.(=

  2. The Hammer says:

    This state has gone looney!

  3. Juvenal says:

    I am a bicyclist. The practice that I think most endangers me and others is riding two or three abreast, “because it is a right.” Bicyclists should ride in the middle of the lane until they are seen, then move right and ride single file.

  4. Fabion says:

    as a driver you hate bikers and as a biker you hate drivers but i say why cant bikers just ride on the sidewalks

  5. Average Joe says:

    How about restricting bicycle traffic on narrow roads, two lane roads with a double yellows, and in areas where the speed limit is over say 40MPH.

    I know this will infuriate the problem cyclist but isn’t that really the problem here? You know the backroad middle of the lane, flip you off, and throw the water bottle crowd. This is precisely what the problem is.

    What happens to otherwise normal adults too become these weirdo militant cyclists? I think their seat or “saddle” in their lingo, is too hard.

    Chill out and ride your bike elsewhere.

  6. shelby says:

    As an avid cyclist I have to agree with the 3ft 15MPH rule. Its does not seem like that big if a deal to me when driving my car but it is a big deal when I am on my bike. I do sympathize with some of the complaints about bike riders.They can be incredibly arrogant jerks. ( Like some car
    drivers I suppose) They also seem to obey the “rules of the road” only when it suits them. That is just the way things are for now as we transition from a car culture to a bike culture. I don’t agree with the progressive agenda but that’s who we vote for and this is a democracy right?

  7. let me ride my bike with a glass of wine says:

    I am from Sonoma County but while I was living in San Diego I received 2 tickets on my bike for not obeying the traffic laws. Now I’m back in Sonoma County and bike riders here don’t obey any of the traffic laws. The worst offence is running through stops signs which I’m surprised no one has been killed. The worst situation waiting to happen are on the back roads where these out of town idiots don’t realize the danger they pose while riding almost the middle of the road. The road some times are barely enough to fit 2 car let alone 2 cars and bikes. We as kids knew not to ride on some them roads because common sense told us they’re dangerous and they still are. What happened to common sense?

  8. Matt Wells says:

    Sorry bike haters but the fact is Sonoma County is arguably the new center of cycling in the entire United States. We are not going anywhere.

  9. The Hammer says:

    People on bikes just don’t obey the laws. I don’t care what anyone says, they just don’t obey the laws. Just yesterday I watched a guy on a bike ride through the crosswalk instead of walking through it. Saw another ride through a red light. Drivers have to watch them like a hawk because you just don’t know what they may do when riding their bike.

  10. LEVI says:

    Jim – I love the camera threats. LOL . And yes cyclists do not follow the rules of the road , anybody that drives sees them breaking the law every day.

    And you talk about drivers being inconsiderate? Cyclists are the most inconsiderate people on the planet. Any person that would take a bicycle on some of these roads are inconsiderate slime, especially outside of the bike lane. Its the Me-first generation with these people. And yes, lets get the cameras going , lets just make sure they are pointed at the cyclists as well, that’s where LE can really write some tickets

  11. Jim says:

    I find it amazing the two ends of the spectrum when it comes to cyclists. You’d think this was a Demo-con-artist vs Republi-con-artist discussion.

    Again, I’ve lived and ridden in Sonoma County my whole life. Started riding when I was 3-4 and continue into my elder years (my definition of “elder”). I’ve ridden with some pompous cyclists, don’t get me wrong, but for people to make statements like “cyclists don’t follow the law”, “these are the most dangerous, arrogant people on the road”, etc is ludicrous.

    The vast majority of cyclists understand they die if struck by a car. Thus, the vast majority follow the rules. The road conditions in Sonoma County are the worst in the state, if not the country (I’ve ridden all over America). Sometimes there is no shoulder to ride on. Sometimes the shoulder is covered with glass, rocks, potholes, etc that we cyclists can’t ride through/over. Drivers don’t understand this. And really, how much time does it actually take to wait for 30 seconds until it is clear to pass a cyclist? Sorry to put you out…having to press the brake, then press the gas…oh the horror.

    One last point most drivers don’t know…with smart phones that have high quality cameras, those drivers who throw things, yell as they pass, honk for no reason and/or brush cyclists, it is very easy to capture the car’s license plate for future reference. I know a few cyclists that have video cameras set up so at the push of a button they can capture the driver’s actions. SMILE, you’re on the internet! And these days, tracking down info on drivers via the net is simple. Just thought those impatient arrogant drivers should know both sides.

  12. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Showing preference to bikes over cars…
    that’s weird. NOT!

  13. Steve Klausner says:

    This law is just common sense and unenforceable so don’t get all in a huff about it. As for the fifteen miles an hour faster the the bike passing rule, on most roadways, if you are driving the speed limit, you’ll close enough to legal.

    As for bikes paying gas taxes, most cycling is recreational. They drive a car the rest of the week and most likely drove to the starting point of their weekend ride.

    Can’t we all just get along?

  14. Steveguy says:

    I am a cyclist that has ridden local for over 30 years., though not so much on back roads as I ride my bike for transportation. I even take it on the bus for convenience. I also drive a car.

    These new infractions are just another way to extract more fines and court costs from the public. $35 fine ? Nope, It will be over $135 with the added ‘court costs’.

    The problem seems to be on very rural roads, but dollars to donuts it will be enforced with many tickets given out in town. What if I ride my bike up to a stop sign and stop 2 feet from the car next to me ? Is that driver now going to get a ticket when we proceed together ?

    This is just another way for the police to fine you, pure and simple.

    The police already have tools for bad driving. ie- reckless driving. Same goes for cyclists.

    Beware what you ask for, as when driving your car in town, you are susceptible to the fine even though driving perfectly safe, along with the cyclist riding in a safe manner.

    When will everything be against the law because we want to be ‘safe’? Might as well require protective great whenever outdoors.

  15. warren says:

    I love riding my bike, but I don’t ride on the roads because I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I hate dealing with road bikes on the small West County roads. The inconsiderate riders who ride side by side and the others who refuse to move over make driving a huge hassle. I’m amazed there aren’t more accidents. In my opinion, we need to build wide shoulders with a bike lane and bikes should only be allowed on those roads.

  16. Greg Karraker says:

    When I am driving on a straight road, I often treat passing bikes the same as passing a car by pulling completely into the opposite lane. It’s just common courtesy.

    But when there is oncoming traffic, it’s frequently impossible to give a bike three feet without risking a head-on collision.

    When my wife and I ride our bikes on roads where it is nearly impossible for a car to pass us comfortably, we simply do what joggers and pedestrians do: Ride facing oncoming traffic. On narrow roads, this feels much safer, since both parties are in control of their lateral separation. Why doesn’t some genius propose that as a law?

  17. David says:

    Why don’t we pass a law that says all bicycles must have a 3′ yardstick attached to both sides of their bike so drivers will know exactly where 3′ is?

  18. LEVI says:

    Cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road . Neither will I when it comes to this rule

  19. Frank says:

    Ok pass this infringement on drivers
    But let’s make sure that they the arrogant bicyclist can’t drive on roads that are less than 30 feet from center to shoulder, charge them a fee to use roads and have them pass a course on safety

  20. Bob Johnson says:

    Who is responsible for carrying the yard stick for the correct measurement? Is there a penalty for the bicyclist who weaves over toward the passing car to a point less than three feet?

    Another bad law from a crazy California legislature and governor. It is unenforceable.

  21. dantosca says:

    Okay – fine. How about we also require cyclists to learn how to obey traffic laws. Drivers have to get a drivers license to ensure they know the rules of the road, why not cyclists? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bowled over by a cyclist zooming down a sidewalk or through a pedestrian only area or seen cyclists riding side by side on narrow country roads preventing anyone from passing them. They’re vehicles you buttholes… you’re subject to the same rules of the road as a driver including signaling for turns, staying off of sidewalks and riding single file.

  22. Fred says:

    As an avid cyclist I have to admit I thought this law seemed a little over the top at first (since I know the risk of being rear ended is very low) until I saw the provision of allowing you to pass at up to 15 mph. I’m usually traveling between 17 and 25 mph on my bike so passing at 32 mph to 40 mph does not seem unreasonable.

    Honestly, how does it ruin anyone’s day by giving fellow people on the road a little more breathing room?

  23. Kay Tokerud says:

    What if there’s a car coming at you in the opposite direction? You won’t be able to move over so will you get a ticket? Will the bicycle rider get a ticket if they don’t move over to the right as far as possible? They don’t even have license plates. Let’s get these bicycles licensed, insured and street legal before giving them any more benefits at motorists’ expense. The DMV should be changed to the DV Department of Vehicles. The 15 mph above that of the bicyclist will be impossible to enforce. The bicycles don’t have speedometers either. Who will judge their speed? Cars slamming on their brakes whenever they pass a bicycle will likely cause accidents. The anti-car people are winning.

    I watch C-SPAN a lot and found out that a lot more toll roads are being proposed. Couple that with taxes for Vehicle Miles Travelled. Add the fact that Sonoma County will not maintain 85% of their paved roads. Our rights to use our nation’s roads are being systematically dismantled at the same time our economy is sputtering. This is about more than just giving bicyclists more room on the road. This is about following ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, the UN American group that would like to downgrade our way of life in America. KICK ICLEI OUT, cities and counties across the country are doing just that. Wake up and join the movement to get this United Nations affiliated group out of our country. United Nations Agenda 21 is all about redistribution of wealth and control over our lives. The anti-UN Agenda 21 movement is spreading like wildfire now. Maybe it’s time for the press to acknowledge what is going on. Who is behind the news blackout of UN Agenda 21? Who’s paying for ICLEI’s operations? There’s some serious money being spent to implement their policy directives. The internet is packed with websites on both sides of the issues. Check it out.

  24. Kevin Grant says:

    Typical a few loud mouths in society want to change things for everyone in life. It’s time that people get fed up with all these petty laws that are being passed just to please a certain group of people. I personally don’t respect bike riders as they break more traffic laws than cars do. I do alot of driving on the back roads of sonoma county and I can’t tell you have many countless encounters I have with bicyclist buzzing through stop signs that when I have the right a way nearly hit and they have enough nerve to chew me out? Everyone must have encountered on a narrow road that bicyclist at times ride 3 to 5 across the road instead of riding single file on the far side of the road. Come on you bicyclists if you want to share the road then you better damn well share the road. If you keep putting these new laws on the books then you better start following the traffic laws as well and it’s time the law enforcement do a crack down on bicycle violators who ignore traffic laws.

  25. Jim says:

    As a cyclist, I understand the thought. I’m sick of cars brushing me, honking while they do it, throwing things at me. As a realist, how will this be enforced? How will this be determined?

    Just more government regulation. How much of life can the morons in Sacramento regulate? Stop and think about it…in your daily life, what don’t they have their hands on? It is ridiculous.

  26. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Fine. How about a Bicycle TAX to pay to enforce it?
    I have to pay GAS TAX to build & maintain roads.
    A Fire Tax to get Cal Fire to respond to my emergency.

    I think it’s only reasonable that bicyclists “pay their far share”.

  27. Sarky Fish says:

    Move over into oncoming traffic or they will flip you the bird. These are the most dangerous, arrogant people on our roads today.

  28. Canthisbe says:

    More laws we need:

    Bicycles traveling on roads must travel at the speed limit if traffic and weather conditions permit.

    Bicycles must have airbags and all other safety equipment that a car must have to be street legal before they can be used on the roads.

    Bicycles must give at least 3 feet of space to cars traveling on bike paths.

    Bicycles and cars must give at least 3 feet of space to people walking down the freeway.

    No car, bicycle or roller skater may strike, injure, offend or make fun of another car, bicycle or roller skater.

    No person using any road shall be responsible for their own safety.

    Any person leaving their house must wear a safety helmet and other protective equipment. Any person remaining in their house must wear a safety helmet and other protective gear.

    Any person sleeping in a bed must wear a helmet certified to be able to withstand an impact to the head caused by a fall from four times the height of the bed. The additional height requirement is because some people, especially kids, bounce on their beds.

  29. Reality Check says:

    Common sense suggests we all extend courtesy to others when driving. But since common sense is in short supply these, we need a law I guess.

    It’s too bad the “the 15 mph passing provision” gets only brief mention. It deserves explanation. Are all drivers to slow to 15 mph when passing a bicycle? On all roads? If so, that’s cause a few rear-enders.

    This law advances a long established trend. Auto drivers are expected to pay for our highways and be thankful, very thankful, they are allowed to use the roads at all. Enjoy. Your days are numbered.

  30. David says:

    How do they propose to measure the 3 foot requirement? What if it looks like 3 feet in my mirror and the LEO says it is only 35″? What if the bicycle rider moves over and reduces the clearance? Who do you think wins the argument? Another stupid law passed by the idiots in Sacramento.