Wednesday, December 20, 2006

California three foot passing law

California Assemblyman Pedro Nava introduced Assembly Bill 60, which requires at least three feet of clearance for drivers passing bicyclists. This bill additionally allows a person to drive a vehicle in a designated 2-way left-turn lane when overtaking and passing a bicycle. Many cyclists favor this bill.

The disaster scenarios predicted by some critics are ridiculous, revealing the level of ignorance of our lawmakers on traffic safety.
[Assemblyman Bob] Huff said the math doesn't add up: A 2-foot-wide bicycle, a 7-foot-wide car and a 3-foot-wide buffer zone can't squeeze into an 11-foot lane and would cram a 12-foot lane.

AB 60 could solve one safety problem by creating another, forcing cars routinely to cross center lines into oncoming traffic to honor the 3-foot buffer, critics say.
It's as if these people don't know what the brake pedal is for.

While cyclists should support AB 60, some cyclists believe we should use our legislative resources on more worthwhile efforts:
Punitive legislation aimed at motorists is popular among some bicyclists; however it is unnecessarily antagonistic to the auto-lobby and generally yields minimal real improvement for cyclists. Funding for bicycling is a far greater and more important challenge. I would prefer the "bike lobby" not waste scarce resources on "feel good" bills that offer scant improvement. Should California bicyclists support AB 60? Of course. Should we make it our top legislative priority? Absolutely not.
See also Kiril's commentary for additional background and history on AB 60. Three feet is the law in Florida, Utah and Grants Pass, Oregon.


  1. I think that DC may have a three foot passing law...

    but I think that it means that cars or trucks must pass WITHIN three feet of the cyclist

  2. We're trying again this session in Texas.

    I agree the law will not have much effect until people know about it. But I can imagine signage along roads informing people "3 feet, It's the law". But you, um, have to have the law in place before you can do that.

    (Hell... that gives me a great idea... just put up the gol dang signs anyway...)