Last month, on Sept. 16, all motorists including drivers of large trucks, even on narrow hilly, mountain and coastal rural roads will be required to maintain a 3-foot buffer between their vehicles and cyclists, and they may only pass cyclists “traveling in the same direction” when “there’s enough space.” If not enough space is available, the motorist must slow down and pass “when no danger is present to the bicyclist,” according to the DMV.
This law is a response to statistics from a 2012 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which concluded that across the country, 726 cyclists died in 2012, 124 were in California. Incidentally, the average age was 43, 88% are males and 28% of these cyclists were legally drunk (.08g/dL) or drugged. Alcohol involvement was a factor in more than 37% by either the vehicle driver or cyclists. Another 49,000 were injured in crashes with vehicles (mostly cars). California joins 22 other states requiring drivers to keep their 3-ft. distance from bikes, Pennsylvania mandates 4-feet.
We are all for safety, but frankly; this is another really stupid bill from the ruling party in Sacramento. I read that the average road bike speed is between 11 to 13 miles an hour. Climbing an 8-percent grade, strong cyclists can only maintain about a speed of 3 to 5 miles per hour, many less than this. You can walk faster than that. It’s much easier for a bike to maneuver around a parked car or to even stop for traffic and move over just like any slow moving vehicle (as is required to do) than for a motor vehicle to travel the speed of a slow bike. In fact, CVC 21654 states that all slow moving vehicles must stay as close to the right side of the roadway as possible while driving slower than other cars and trucks on the road. Of course bikes are exempted!
How can most large trucks or even dually pick-ups and SUVs keep this 3-ft. distance and not go over the center yellow line and travel into the oncoming lanes or just as dangerous, virtually stop all traffic waiting to pass a bike by 3-ft.?
California’s vehicle code (CVC 35100) states that no legal vehicle can exceed 102” (8.5 ft.) wide. Cities and counties can restrict vehicle widths as low as 96” (8 ft.). There are exceptions for trucks hauling bailed hay, straw and related Ag products; they are given (130” – 11 ft.). Specialty highway construction equipment can be 120” (10 ft.). Motor coaches are limited to 102” and PUC regulated buses, 104.”
A quick look on the internet and I found that most small cars are 5.5 – 6.1 ft. wide, large cars 6.2 – 6.7 ft., SUV’s are 80” (6.7 ft.). H1 Hummer’s are 87” wide (~7ft.). And as we know most medium and large commercial trucks are the full 102” wide (8.5 ft.).
Road Lane Widths v. Vehicle Widths Don’t Add Up!
Multiple government and quasi-government agencies like the U.S. DOT and AASHTO provide guidance for lane width designs for a variety of applications such as horizontal curves. Lane width does not include shoulders, curbs, and on-street parking areas. The chart below summarizes the range of lane widths for travel lanes and ramps in the U.S.
|Type of Roadway||Rural – US (feet) / Metric (meters)||Urban – US (feet) / Metric (meters)|
|Freeway||12 / 3.6||12 / 3.6|
|Ramps (1-lane)||12-30 / 3.6-9.2||12-30 / 3.6-9.2|
|Arterial||11-12 / 3.3-3.6||10-12 / 3.0-3.6|
|Collector||10-12 / 3.0-3.6||10-12 / 3.0-3.6|
|Local||9-12 / 2.7-3.6||9-12 / 2.7-3.6|
Well, one needs not be a math major to figure-out that a 3-ft. buffer is more politics than practical common sense. Even the bill’s author Assm. Steven Bradford noted that, “This three foot buffer is not necessarily to cite motorists for driving dangerously but to educate them and ask them to share the road with cyclists.” Here are some reasonable suggestions:
- How about changing the law to make cyclists ride in the far right portion of their lane, not hugging the left edge of the white line of the bike lane.
- On roads and streets that are narrow and have no bike lanes, bikes should be required to stay within a foot from the curb and ride in single file and not in a big group (herd) taking up the motor vehicle lane.
- Many narrow and dangerous roads should ban bikes all together – not vehicles!
I know we have to share the road, that’s fine, but please let some common sense prevail here! Oh yes, I forgot that one important issue, common sense is not common anymore.
So How Much Are the Fines?
Again, AB 1371 was a bill from last year by Assm. Bradford (D – Gardena) that went into effect in Sept. 16. This new law is called the “Three feet for Safety Act.” A violation of this provision is an “infraction” punishable by a fine not exceeding $100 for a first conviction, and up to a $250 fine for a 3rd and subsequent conviction occurring within one year of 2 or more prior infractions. Violators will face a $35 fine, as well as a $220 fine if a collision occurs and it causes bodily harm to the bicyclist, and the vehicle driver is found to be in violation of three situational “bike passing” provisions. You can than basically multiply these fines by 300 percent.
In addition to the “no passing unless there is a three foot buffer,” the law also requires drivers to consider other factors, such as road conditions and weather when determining the appropriate time to pass if not enough space is available for the 3-ft. gap.
Frankly, this law just doesn’t make sense unless you are a self-righteous, sanctimonious bike user. It will force motorists to either swerve into oncoming traffic lanes or limit speeds to a crawl as vehicles back up behind a cyclist, particularly uphill, which is bad for commuters, bad for the environment, bad for neighborhoods, bad for the drivers trying to earn a living and indicative of the regulatory absurdity that prevails in this state.
It’s Just About Impossible!
A reporter from one of our local Bay area news stations put a 3-ft. stick on the side of his bike with a red flag hanging off it and a cameraman following him. He actually biked around San Francisco keeping the 3-ft. distance from other vehicles. He was able to maneuver all around but he still could not physically keep 3-ft. away from anything, his stick kept hitting passing trucks, cars, trucks parked in loading zones, busses. You name it, he hit it.
This story really made it clear how ridiculous this law is. So tell me this, if a bicycle can’t even keep a 3-ft. distance how is a car or a truck going to be able to do it without causing an accident. Whose fault will that be, the bicycle will be long gone, and no one will have seen the bike so the driver will be the one sitting there with an at fault accident due to his hitting someone in the oncoming lane because he tried to keep that 3-ft. distance. This law also leaves much to be desired in the way of interpretation. How can an officer tell if the driver is 3-ft. away or 2-ft.11-inches away? The distance can change in a split second if the bike swerves or maneuvers in any way.
My Own Experiences Aren’t Very Good
Many of our roads here in the Bay Area are very narrow and winding, case in point; the road I live on in the East Bay, and near to where we park our trucks. The total width of the rural road is barely 9-feet wide in many portions and when we travel on it; our trucks literally take up the whole road. Cars have to back up to a spot where they can pull off in a driveway and walkers have to hug someone’s fence. Of course this same road seems to be a favorite course for cyclists; they don’t stay off to one side but take up the whole road. I have had to literally come to a dead stop in the road while a swarm of bikes ride around me like a herd of zombies on Walking Dead. I cannot understand why bikes seem to like the most dangerous, narrowest roads to ride on.
I am not trying to pick on these riders, but I have nothing but problems with them in the area where I drive the most. They seem to have an uppity attitude that they own and rule the road, they have all the rights and those that pay the fuel taxes to build and maintain the roads like trucks and cars have none.
America is supposed to be place where we all “share the road” not hog it. Rude behavior unfortunately seems to be the common attitude of most cyclists, for some reason they project an image that they are better than those that drive cars and trucks, and who are dependent on driving vehicles to make a living for themselves and their families – like all of us.
I will leave you with these final thoughts – very few cyclists truly try to share the road and those that do, I appreciate them very much and give them a friendly wave. As is usual, the bad ones make them all look bad. So, wake up you cyclists and actually try to share the road the way you should be made to.
This law is poorly written, overly vague, and worst of all, deeply unfair. My…how democrats in this state have changed. It is wrong to put the entire burden for safe cycling on the motoring public’s shoulders.
As the saying goes: I love my country, but fear its government!
PS: If anyone receives a ticket for this violation and doesn’t contest it, they are crazy. If you are convicted, please share it, we will attempt to track members who receive a citation for violating this law.