Event Promotes Awareness of CA 3-Foot Passing Bill In Effect Next Week

From this morning's #IGive3Ft press event. The 3-foot long pink bar demonstrates the three feet passing distance, though, legally, drivers shouldn't pass to the left of a bicycle. All photos by Joe Linton
A display from this morning’s #IGive3Ft press event. The 3-foot long pink bar indicates the new three-foot legal minimum passing distance space between cars and bicycles. Legally, though, cars should generally never pass to the right of a moving bicycle as this display seems to indicate. All photos by Joe Linton

This morning, California legislators, law enforcement representatives, cycling advocates, and the Automobile Association of America (AAA) gathered to promote awareness of the state’s new 3-foot passing law. Long in the works, the Three Feet for Safety Act, A.B. 1371, goes into effect next Tuesday, September 16.

As the campaign has shifted from passing the law to enforcing it, the promotional hashtag that used to be from a cyclist’s perspective, #GiveMe3, has now appropriately given way to one from a driver’s perspective, #IGive3Ft.

Here is the summary of the new law, from its legislative preamble:

The bill would prohibit, with specified exceptions, the driver of the motor vehicle that is overtaking or passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway from passing at a distance of less than 3 feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. The bill would make a violation of these provisions an infraction punishable by a $35 fine. The bill would also require the imposition of a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist causing bodily harm to the bicyclist, and the driver is found to be in violation of the above provisions.

The well-attended press event took place in front of Serious Cycling bike shop in Northridge. Most speakers, including the law’s authors, Assemblymembers Steven Bradford and Matt Dababneh, emphasized that the new rule will make streets safer for everyone. 

Assemblymember Bradford explains California's new 3-foot passing law.
Assemblymember Bradford explains California’s new 3-foot passing law at this morning’s press event in Northridge.

AAA’s spokesperson Marianne Kim concluded her remarks urging cyclists to not break laws and to always wear helmets, which she analogized to seat belts. AAA, which fought against earlier versions of the law, is now distributing fliers to raise awareness about it. The background of the AAA’s “3Ft for Safety Act” flier features a car tire skid mark skidding into (or out of) a pool of spattered blood directly over the California Bicycle Coalition logo.

The Automobile Association of America is distr
The lower portion of the Automobile Association of America’s Three Feet for Safety Act promotional flier.

Also, enjoy this short 3-foot passing law video, below, created by Los Angeles cyclist Nathan Lucero. View more of Lucero’s work here.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    That little pink stick perfectly demonstrates how inadequate 3-feet is when passing a cyclist. That the fine is a 1950’s era $35 is even more pathetic. The fine for hitting a bicyclist at $220 and likely sending them to the hospital or their grave is just as insulting.

    I know this is all you could manage out in Cali but man. At least us here in NJ have Pennsyltukey to look to as a model with their 4-foot passing law that clarifies just about every aspect of how to pass a cyclist safely including the need to slow down to or below the speed limit.

  • Andy, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve communicated with an NJ Legislator who is interested in a four-foot passing law for NJ. I don’t want to say who because it’s not public yet…but I think you’ll be seeing a bill dropped early next session.

  • Poggles

    Andy, to make matters worse, they measure it from the door instead of the wing mirror! Even those who think they are doing well, still manage to get it wrong!

  • calwatch

    It’s a $35 base fine which comes out to about $250 when all taxes, fees, and surcharges are included. Add traffic school to avoid the point and it’s another $70. So not cheap at all.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    UGGHH! So a truck towing a 5th wheel and has massive mirrors could whack you in the back of the head and get away with it. UGGHH!!

  • Andy B from Jersey

    So you still have your hand in Jersey politics. Cool! Yes I’m aware of the movements to pass a 4-foot law in NJ. I think the proposed bill needs to go a little further like clarifying the legality of passing a bicyclists on a double yellow which the PA law does. There is no provision in NJ Title 39 for passing cyclists or even slow moving farm or construction equipment in no passing zones, contrary to common belief.

  • 2wheeler

    They also measure from the car to the bike frame not the edge of the handlebars, which are at least a foot closer.

  • jovertone

    I haven’t read the legislation, so forgive my ignorance. I am wondering if bicyclists will ever be considered vehicles under this law? Do bicyclists have to give other bicyclists 3 feet when passing (or when passing a vehicle)? What happens if a bicyclist swerves left and into the vehicles 3-foot buffer?

  • mcas

    This law only applies to motor vehicles. It’s a big distinction in CA Vehicle Code. If it says ‘motor vehicle’ it never applies to bikes. If it says ‘vehicle’ — it does.

  • SD1990

    A prime example when something that should make you feel good actually makes you really mad. This rule is about safe passing and sharing the road but doesn’t promote any of that. Now bring in the “double-yellow” lines, swerving bicyclist, empowered head heavy cyclist and you have a recipe for disaster


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