California Cyclists Get 3 Feet – Brown Signs AB 1371
The third time’s a charm for California’s “Give Me 3″ push. California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1371 on Monday, amending the current vehicle code from requiring passing at a “safe distance” to a distance of at least three feet.
This is the third year in a row that a bill that would require a 3-foot passing distance has hit Brown’s desk. In 2011 Brown vetoed AB 910 because it asked drivers to slow to 15 mph if a three-foot clearance was not possible. In 2012, SB 1464 was introduced, amending the 15 mph limit to “a speed that is reasonable and prudent.” Brown vetoed SB 1464 on the basis that it would explicitly legalize crossing over a double yellow line in order to maintain a safe passing distance–a practice already in use on the roads. This provision has been withdrawn from the latest version in lieu of directing drivers to have “due regard” for road and traffic conditions.
The Vehicle code will be amended to read: “The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to the limitations and exceptions set forth in this article.” The Three Feet for Safety Act also establishes two penalties for drivers. The fine for unsafe passing without injury is $35 ($154 after court and administrative fees). The second penalty is applied to drivers who are involved in a collision that results in injury to a cyclist, with a fine of $220 ($959 after fees). This second penalty is equal to the fine imposed for reckless driving with injury.
While Gov. Brown is a member of the elite club of only two U.S. governors who have vetoed safe passing legislation (along with Texas governor Rick Perry), California has joined the ranks of 21 other states (plus the District of Columbia) with three-foot laws. The Three Feet for Safety Act goes into effect in California a year from now, on September 16, 2014.
About Krista Carlson
A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.