At least eleven states have laws requiring drivers to leave three feet between their vehicle and cyclists while passing. If the Mayor of Los Angeles has anything to say about it, California will join those states before the year ends.
At a Tuesday press conference, Villaraigosa, flanked by leaders of the LADOT, LAPD, Los Angeles Councy Bicycle Coalition, and Midnight Ridazz, stated his support and promised his advocacy for a state law requiring drivers to give those three feet. The purpose of the press conference was to announce the winner of a slogan contest for posters designed by Geoff McFetridge that will be going up on bus shelters throughout the city. The "Give me 3" slogan was created by Danny Gamboa and beat out over 200 other entries. You can see the fruits of McFetridge and Gamboa’s efforts above.
Momentum for a "3 Feet Passing Law" for California has been growing in Los Angeles since the start of the year. Council Member Bill Rosendahl floated the idea that the City could create its own passing law while he pushed for an "anti-harassment ordinance" for cyclists. While the City Attorney has opined that the city can’t pass such a law on its own, Rosendahl renewed his call for a "3 Feet Passing Law" at last week’s Bike Summit. For Villaraigosa’s part, he has vowed to push forward with this proposed legislation no matter what. “We’ll keep at it until it becomes part of the California Vehicle Code,” he promised at the press conference.
The website 3 Feet Please has been monitoring the national movement to bring this law to every state. It helpfully provides a policy paper from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (the state), which covers the local issues and provides guidance for activists with similar goals in other states. For example, they show that a "3 Feet Passing Law" is more effective as an educational tool than an enforcement one.
We have spoken to state patrol officials in several of the 11 states that have passed the three-feet law. Those officials emphasize that the law is used more as an education tool to provide safe practices than as an enforcement tool to punish law breakers. It gives officers, government officials, and civic groups the opportunity to inform drivers what a safe minimum distance is by use of a common measure (3 feet or one yard) that can be easily remembered.
Of course, even if the police aren’t measuring the passing distance between cars and bikes when no collision occurs, the law could give cyclists a new legal leg to stand on when forced off their bikes by passing cars even when there’s no actual collision.
While cyclists are waiting for a legislator to emerge to champion a "3 Feet Passing Law" in Sacramento; Los Angeles is moving forward with a public information campaign to educate drivers in how to safely share the road with cyclists. Posters are going up soon and the Mayor is also recording Public Service Announcements, in English and Spanish, for radio, Internet and television. While the posters are guaranteed placement due to an agreement with the company who owns the shelters, other placements are unpredictable. Oftentimes, the first time I see an LADOT P.S.A. is when it’s announced that they have won another Emmy.
However, activists have high hopes for the campaign and for the future of cycling advocacy under the city’s newly minted bike-activist Mayor. Jennifer Klausner,
Executive Director of the LACBC said, "This Bike
Awareness and Safety poster symbolizes the start of a commitment to
creating safer streets for cyclists. It is just the first of many more
initiatives we hope to see come to fruition to ensure that cyclists are
safe and feel welcome on our city streets."