California Safe Passing Bill Given a Pass by Assembly Transportation Committee...Against Strong Opposition by both California AAA Affiliates

The Automobile Clubs of California Still Don't Think that Bicyclists Need 3 Feet

At the end of June, the Transportation Committee of the California State Assembly approved Senate Bill 910, a bill that would amend the California Vehicle Code to require drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind.

When drivers could not provide that safe passing distance, they would be required to slow to within 15 mph of a bicyclist's speed. The approval of the bill by 8 to 5 in the committee was fiercely contested by the California State Automobile Association and the Automobile Club of Southern California (the AAA affiliates for northern and southern California, respectively).

As we reported in early June, a month after SB 910 had been approved by the Transportation Committee of the California Senate, AAA Northern California had objected to the bill's stipulation that drivers be required to slow down when a three foot passing distance couldn't be maintained. AAA Southern California joined the fight in contesting the bill in Transportation Committee hearings in the Assembly.

The auto clubs proposed making the three feet optional, which would have nullified the effect of the bill, the intent of which was to clarify for safety's sake the vague provisions of the California Vehicle Code for how drivers should pass bicyclists. Three feet is already the distance recommended by the California Department of Motor Vehicles in the California Driver's Handbook.

The issue doesn't seem like it should be very contentious, but debate in the Transportation Committee was apparently quite heated. The 8 to 5 vote that ultimately approved the bill was made on a party line split, although we agree with a statement from the most recent newsletter of the California Bicycle Coalition that, "we can't figure out what makes this a partisan issue." Similar laws on the books in other states were passed with bipartisan support (as was also the case with SB 910 in the California Senate).

SB 910 would simply make the roads safer for bicyclists and clarify the law for drivers. Hopefully the California Assembly will see it that way too. Members of the Assembly will vote on the bill in late August. Public comments on the bill are being accepted until Monday, August 15th. Residents of California can contact their representatives in the Assembly by following the instructions at the California Bicycle Coalition's "Give Me 3" website.

Are your friends in California still members of AAA? (We won't take the time to wonder why just now.) The Give Me 3 website also offers visitors an easy way to "Say No to AAA" -- at least as far as the debate over SB 910 goes. If your friends have questions about auto club membership after getting involved with the campaign, just send them our way.

Kicking Asphalt

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