California’s 3 foot law

I give 3 feetOne September 16, 2014 California’s 3 foot law goes into effect.  The law requires that motorists give bicyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.

The intent of the law is to make is safer for bicyclists to use our streets and roadways.  Anyone who rides a bicycle is aware of the danger of a vehicle that passes to closely.  If the motorist or the bicyclist makes just a small move when the vehicle is too close the bicyclists safety can be put in jeopardy.

By law bicyclists are allowed to use all roadways in the state of California except where expressly prohibited.  For the most part that prohibition is limited to freeways.  And in many cases bicyclists are allowed to use the entire lane.  For 2014-09-15_17-50-10example when the lane is too narrow for both a bicyclist and a vehicle to pass safely the bicyclist may use the entire lane.  In Long Beach a good example of a lane that is too narrow for both vehicles and bicyclists is 2nd street in Belmont Shore.  Here the green sharrows clearly show that bikes may use the full lane and give motorists a good idea of an appropriate passing space.

But regardless of whether the bicyclist has the right to use the entire lane, is riding in a bike lane or as far right in the lane as is “practicable” drivers need to give them at least 3 feet.  It’s the safe and courteous thing…and the lawful thing to do.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition California now joins twenty-four other states with similar laws. The law goes into effect as California’s state and local governments work to boost bicycling for improved health, reduced traffic congestion, and economic growth.  Bicycling has increased 50% in California since 2000, according to the California Household Transportation Survey, with about two million bike trips daily in the Golden State. In 2014, California moved from 19th to 9th in the annual Bicycle Friendly State rankings by the League of American Bicyclists. The state Dept. of Transportation says it’s working with its partners to infuse about $360 million into biking and other active transportation projects over the next three years while local sales taxes and the state’s cap-and-trade revenue are slated to contribute more than $1 billion to improve bicycling infrastructure.

California’s chapters of the American Automobile Association are supporting the campaign with safety information cards that it is distributing to drivers it helps on the streets and in its annual “School’s Open Drive Safely” campaign directed to 250,000 children, young drivers and parents. The California Highway Patrol is distributing the cards to its public information officers and to visitors at hundreds of its community and safety events, in addition to social media tweets and facebook posts about the law for their followers.

The California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) is also providing bumper stickers and window clings for free to motorists who want to put them on their car to remind other motorists of the need to pass safely. The stickers can be ordered in bulk at  Further, CalBike is also working with Caltrans to get approval for an official traffic sign that will remind drivers of the law. Later this month, the California Traffic Control Devices Committee will consider adopting for California a version of signs that are already in use in other states.

The following video illustrates safe passing distances.