Are you sick of hearing about California's 3-foot rule yet? We have to admit, we're getting a little tired of tripping over those bottles of champagne we thought we'd be broaching back in 2011. The original bill had three main intentions: to define the safe passing distance for cars overtaking bicycles (3 feet); to permit cars to cross a double line in order to safely pass a cyclist; and to make an exception that, if a car is unable to allow 3 feet when passing a bike, it may still pass provided that it slow to 15 mph. The latter was intended as a concession to narrow, congested urban roads, and specifically catered to drivers who had no opportunity to pass in the oncoming lane. AAA and Governor Brown both objected to the idea that cars might have to slow down, citing the possibility of rear-end collisions or traffic jams. So State Senator Lowenthal has proposed a new bill, SB 1464, with language identical to the original...except without the exception allowing cars to pass closer than 3 ft. Mysteriously, Jim Brown of the California Bike Coalition asserts that AAA finds the new language "not objectionable."
Senator Lowenthal expressed his (and our) confusion about the Governor's earlier veto.
"Obviously I am disappointed with the veto, but I am also a bit confused. It appears the Governor’s biggest concern with the bill revolved around the 15 MPH provision. However, that provision actually made it easier for a motorist to pass a cyclist and allowed for a much smoother flow of traffic. The Governor seems to be advocating for a strict, minimum three foot buffer in which a motorist cannot pass, under any circumstances unless that pass can be made with at least three feet between the motorist and the cyclist. I agree that that would be safer for the cyclist, but it would not, in any way address the concerns the Governor raised in the veto."
So, we'll see if the Governor and the California highway lobby stick to their illogical guns and allow the revised bill to pass. They’ve already been outdone by Pennsylvania, which just became the 20th state to require a set passing margin for cyclists. If they don’t hurry up, Nebraska will be next.