Friday StreetsPoll: How Can Sacramento Make Streets Safer for Cyclists

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about changing the California Vehicle Code to make streets safer for Cyclists. 

Bikeside is kicking off a campaign to change the state law regarding hit and run laws.  Life Before License has already garnered is share of attention locally, and now Bikeside is asking for your help in determining what penalties are best for convicted hit and run drivers by taking this survey.  We’ll have a lot more on Life Before License in the coming weeks.

At his Bike Summit, twelve days ago, Mayor Villaraigosa raised the idea of a mandatory helmet law for cyclists of all ages.  Villaraigosa credits his helmet for saving his life, or at least his brain, following his bike crash last month.

But earlier this week, Villaraigosa focused on a mandatory "three feet passing law" for when motorists are overtaking a cyclist.  Some more on the rationale for this law can be found here.

What proposed change to state law would make cyclists safest?

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  • while the 3 foot passing law is a great idea, enforcement and education is a serious problem. Not to mention most people who I encounter on a daily basis already give me plenty of space, and the jerks who don’t aren’t likely to stop not giving me plenty of space. What am I supposed to do if someone fails to enforce the law? Call the cops? If they didn’t see it happen, they won’t do anything about it. And I’m also unlikely to get the plates off the car in time to do anything about it. Other than going everywhere with a helmet cam, there isn’t much that this law will do. I think a campaign to encourage drivers to give 3 feet is a great idea, but I don’t think passing a law will do much, if anything.

    The increased penalties for hit and run drivers is an excellent idea. I’m really REALLY sick of seeing people getting wrist slaps for hitting cyclists and leaving them laying in the street. That woman with the porche SUV who later turned herself into police and then walked.. that was absolute nonsense. She should have been jailed on the spot, there’s no sympathy for hit and run. If you hit someone, you pull over and make sure they’re ok until the ambulance/cops show up, it’s simple fucking respect, really.

  • I don’t think any of these laws will help all that much. The helmet law idea is so stupid, it shouldn’t even be on the list but even the ancient philosophers had their superstitions.

    How about across-the-board changes in liability laws in car vs. pedestrian and car vs. cyclist crashes? What I mean is, why not up the penalty significantly for anyone that hits another human being with their vehicle – automatic loss of license would be an awesome step to take.

  • I’d be inclined to look at a 3-foot passing law like seatbelt laws, or cell phone driving laws. They aren’t that easy to enforce, but if you make them ubiquitous through society it will start to become common practice.

  • Or no hurdy gurdy or hand organ playing laws?

    We’ve got those on the books in LA right now.

  • Eric B

    The three foot law is designed primarily as an education tool. Making it a law means that it will be part of drivers’ ed and could even be a question on the test. (On par with “how many feet before a turn do you merge into the bike lane?”) It becomes something all officers are trained in. In short, it becomes a normalized part of traffic behavior, like “red light means stop” and “lane markings mean stay in between them.” “Bicyclist means give three feet.”

    Will all drivers magically start leaving enough space? Of course not, just like drivers run reds and slalom between lanes. But the majority of law-abiding drivers, and law-abiding drivers are a majority, will becomes educated that they need to leave space between bicycles and their vehicles.

    Also, this law has been enforced in other jurisdictions. Tucson, I believe, used a state bike safety grant to use a plainclothes officer on the street as a decoy–just like Beverly Hills and Glendale do here for crosswalk enforcement.

    Thankfully, 3-feet laws and hit-and-run laws are not mutually exclusive because both are urgently needed!

  • Joseph E

    How about lower speed limits (25 mph on arterials, 15 mph on most streets) and no right turns on red in urban areas? Use red light cameras between lights to enforce speed limits, and add traffic calming at intersections so most motorists will naturally drive those speeds.

    Most pedestrians and bike riders hit by cars survive if the car was going less than 25 mp. Most die when the car is traveling 35 mph and above.

  • Joseph E

    Source for speed versus fatality rate:

    20 mph collisions are rarely fatal, 30 mph is 50/50, and 40 mph is almost certainly fatal. Below 20 mph, many pedestrians (and bike riders) are not seriously injured or disabled.

    20 mph zones in London reduced casualties by over 40%:

  • Cory

    “How about lower speed limits”

    First you need to put an end to the process that incentivizes speeding with the reward of higher speed limits!

    Politically speaking the 3 foot law and lower speed limits are tough because non-cyclists have a difficult time relating. Hit and run is politically more feasible, get some angry moms involved and watch what happens! I know I listen when my mom starts yelling!

  • Bee

    Hi there. You might want to give a heads up for your readers and those in Sacramento. Chris Horner will be at Clark’s Corner on Sept. 18 :) They are also having a bike ride. More information here


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