The vehicle code’s definition of the 3-foot bicycle law

January 9th, 2014 | by Colin Atagi | Comments

Readers continue to weigh in on the 3-feet for Safety Act, which will require drivers to maintain a 3-foot buffer when passing to the left of bicyclists on the road beginning in September.

Several local residents sought clarification on the law depending on various scenarios.

tdsdc5-6dbbf7t7l3c19dognghs_layoutWhat happens if a bicyclist is the one riding close to traffic, particularly when cars are stopped when they have a red light?

Does a driver need to move further away if a bicyclist is on the far left edge of a bicycle lane, but inside the lane nonetheless?

We contacted several agencies for clarification, including the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Although traffic officials stress all parties – whether motorists or bicyclists - must obey traffic laws and be cognizant of their surroundings, the new law is specifically geared toward car and truck drivers and must be followed as written.

tdsdc5-65kyha4hpc11lic2si41_layout The California Highway Patrol provided its official entry in the California Vehicle Code.

21760.  (a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the Three Feet for Safety Act.

(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.

(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.

(e) (1) A violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) is an infraction punishable by a fine of thirty-five dollars ($35).

      (2) If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the operator of the bicycle, and the driver of the motor vehicle is found to be in violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d), a two-hundred-twenty-dollar ($220) fine shall be imposed on that driver.

(f) This section shall become operative on September 16, 2014.

 Bicyclists, meanwhile, also need to follow rules that are defined in the vehicle code.

That includes stopping at red lights,  traveling in the same direction as traffic and not riding in crosswalks.

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