Starting September 16, 2014, bicycle riders will get a buffer zone requiring that cars and trucks stay at least three feet away from them while riding on streets and other roadways. Before, drivers were required to pass bicycles at a “safe distance.” But the law was too vague and not specific enough. Anyone that rides a bicycle on our streets understands that drivers coming too close is terrifying and can lead to accidents and serious injuries.
The fine for coming too close to bicycle riders is $35. If a collision occurs, the fine can be $220. The new rule states that if traffic is too heavy to allow a driver to change lanes to safely pass a bicyclist, or if other conditions make a three foot buffer impossible, the driver is required to slow to a “reasonable and prudent” speed and wait to pass the bicyclist until it is safe. Traffic control experts worry that this will create the potential for traffic slowdowns on busy and crowded streets where drivers may have to crawl along behind a bicycle rider. In response, many cities and counties are adding bikeways and bike paths to accomodate more riders and provide room for them alongside vehicular traffic. The new law will also require law enforcement officers to be able to accurately gauge 3 foot distances and will require training to do so.
The measure is intended to raise driver awareness and educate drivers and bicycle riders about sharing the road. In California, cyclists must follow and obey traffic laws, just like drivers of cars, including stopping at stop signs and red lights, and riding on the right side of the roadway. More than 150 deaths were reported in 2012 in California due to collisions between bicyclists and cars, according the the California Highway Patrol. We hope to see this number drop in the coming years, in part due to this safety measure, and is an important step to avoid the serious bodiliy injuries, deaths and liability that results from collisions with bicyclists.