“Give Me 3” Goes Statewide as SB 910 Moves Through Senate

Soon the whole state could be asked to give cyclists 3.. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/5039796985/##Waltaar/Flickr##

Last summer, a coalition of bicycle groups and the City of Los Angeles joined forces to create the “Give Me 3” public service announcement campaign to encourage drivers to give cyclists a larger berth when passing.  Less than a year later, the California Bike Coalition (CBC) has launched its own “Give Me 3” website and campaign to build support for Senator Alan Lowenthal’s (D-Long Beach) Senate Bill 910.  S.B. 910 would create a state 3 foot passing law for California.  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa remains personally committed to enshrining a passing law in the California Vehicle Code.

When Streetsblog first discussed SB 910 back in February, the legislation was still in nascent form.  However, May has proven to be a defining month for the legislation.  On May 3, the Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on the bill and moved the amended legislation on a party-line 6-3 vote.   Opposition to the legislation comes not only from Republican Senators but also the American Automobile Association, and the Southern California Auto Club, both of whom have a history of opposing legislation that would slow or calm traffic.

When similar legislation was proposed five years ago, municipalities and the California Highway Patrol were also in opposition, but they have avoided taking a position on this bill.

However, one bicycling group is also opposing S.B. 910, the California Association of Bicycle Associations.  CABO is worried the bill is unenforceable and ambiguous.  I’m not certain how S.B. 910, which sets firm passing guidelines, could be any more ambiguous than current law which requires passing at “a safe distance.”

Which isn’t to say that cycling groups don’t support SB 910 for the most part.  Last week the CBC launched its “Give Me 3” Campaign at a party in Long Beach, in the heart of Lowenthal’s district.  The Coalition readily admits that the campaign is building on the messaging work done in Los Angeles, noting “The City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Los Angeles Police Department, Midnight Ridazz and Champion Studio have donated to the CBC the design for the citywide Give Me 3 public awareness campaign they created and ran last fall.”

To get SB 910 through the Senate Transportation Committee earlier this month, Lowenthal accepted a pair of friendly amendments to make it easier for drivers to follow the law.  The current draft of SB 910 allows drivers to cross a double-yellow line if needed to pass cyclists safely and allows for drivers traveling less than 15 miles per hour faster than the cyclist to pass closer than the mandated 3 feet.

But even the CBC admits there are still issues to work out before S.B. 910 is ready for a final vote.  For example, there is still the issue of how to handle passing situations in narrow streets where there isn’t room for a car, a bike, and three feet of travel space.  While the obvious answer is to tell drivers to slow down before passing, at Cycleicious, Richard Masoner notes a political problem that kind of thinking.

Santa Clara County Expressways are a network of high speed arterials with 40 MPH to 55 MPH speed limits. Some of these expressways are popular with commuting cyclists of all abilities because they feature wide, smooth shoulders and few intersections. Fast recreational cyclists riding at 30 MPH are common on Foothills Expressway from Cupertino through Los Altos to Palo Alto, but slower commuters poking along at 10 to 15 MPH aren’t uncommon, and some uphill segments drag cyclist speeds down to the single digits.

S.B. 910 still needs approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading to the full Senate for a vote.  Neither vote is scheduled at the time of publication.

  •  To clarify: I commented on an early March version of the bill. There have been a couple of amendments since then.

    One of the more important amendments, and I think one reason CABO opposes this bill, is that the current version of the bill gives motorists a choice of either passing at a safe distance or “at a speed not exceeding 15 MPH faster than the bicycle.”   

    How I understand this language in the May 10 version of SB910:  If you’re at least 3 feet away you can blast by at whatever speed you want.  If you want to squeeze past closer than 3 feet, you have to go less than 15 MPH faster than the speed of the cyclist.

  • guest

     Oh, whoopee. I anticipate this law, however it ends up, will be followed as diligently as the ‘headlights on during inclement weather’ law. Which is to say, never.

    And you betcha Foothill (no plural) Expressway is scary. Time to get out some green paint and soft-hit posts down there!

  • I have not read through the actual bill yet, but if it allows drivers to not give 3 if they are 15 mph or less faster, I think that is pretty problematic. If a cyclist is going 12 mph, and a driver 27 mph, being able to pass at more than double the speed with less than 3 ft. is not a safe pass.

  • Joe

    The bill, as written, is pretty scary and not at all cyclist-friendly. A car passing you closely at 15mph relative can still knock you down, force you off the road, or run you over. This bill merely legitimizes “buzzing” cyclists, by creating the impression that close passing is safe.

    Also, I don’t understand why a situation involving inadequate passing space is an “issue” that needs to be “handled”. If it’s not safe to pass, don’t pass. Simple.

  • Joe

    By incredible force of will, I am managing to refrain from swearing.

    The bill has been amended again. Under the new version, the penalty for an unsafe pass that does not cause injury is REDUCED. Current law calls for a $100 fine; the new fine would be THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS.

    So if somebody buzzes me, causes me to crash and wreck my bike (but I am not seriously injured), and then I can by some miracle get them into court and prove that they were going more than 15mph faster than me, then they’ll be subject to a whopping fine of THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS.

    But that’s not all. If they run over my legs, crippling me for life, then the penalty really kicks up. That’s right, they could end up paying a fine of as much as TWO HUNDRED TWENTY DOLLARS. Unless, of course, I can’t prove they were going faster than 15mph relative, in which case they get off scot free.

    Cycling groups everywhere should be opposing this cyclist-killing piece of garbage.

  • Anonymous

     So many drivers with bad judgment, I wouldn’t trust any of them to estimate 3 feet. To be buzzed by a car 3 feet at any speed is just way too close.

  • Bob Davis

    Off topic, but the title of this article reminds me of “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynnyrd–a band from a part of the country noted more for pickup trucks than bicycles.

  • Realist

    Currently, if you are hit causing personal injury, there are no fines, so this would create a new fine. Further, if the driver is found guilty of reckless endangerment, they can be charged with a crime that makes them eligible for jail and a much higher fine. You will also have civil remedies available in court. Do you actually believe tha this bill gives drivers a free pass to hit cyclists. Learn the law before you comment on it. 

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