Our goal: Encourage more people to ride bicycles by ensuring that drivers give bicyclists adequate clearance when passing from behind.
Many Californians who want the health, environmental and economic benefits of riding a bicycle for transportation or recreation avoid riding their bikes because they feel uncomfortable about trying to share the road with motor vehicles — especially when they see cars and trucks pass bicyclists too closely.
Their discomfort isn’t just a perception. As bicyclists ride, they need to be able to move aside when they encounter trash, broken glass or rough pavement in the road. But when they need to move and a driver is passing too closely, the result can be a deadly fall or collision. Passing-from-behind collisions are the leading cause of adult bicyclist fatalities in California and the U.S.
Existing law requires drivers to pass other vehicles and bicycles at a “safe distance” but doesn’t specify what that distance is. If drivers don’t know what constitutes a safe passing distance, how can people who ride bikes or want to ride feel confident that drivers know how to share the road safely?
By requiring drivers to give bicyclists more space when passing, we can minimize a leading cause of deadly collisions and help more people feel comfortable about choosing to ride their bikes.
The California Bicycle Coalition and the City of Los Angeles are co-sponsoring Senate Bill 1464, authored by Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, to require drivers to give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing from behind. The bill modifies existing state law that requires a driver to maintain an unspecified safe distance when passing another vehicle or a bicycle.
Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia have already enacted a specified minimum passing distance for motorists. Pennsylvania’s new 4-foot passing law, signed in February, took effect on April 1. And Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed that state’s 3-foot passing law on April 10.
A specified minimum passing distance provides drivers with a more objective and easily understood measure of what constitutes “safe” and gives law enforcement and the courts a clearer basis for establishing a driver’s liability for unsafe passing. Most importantly, it helps emphasize a driver’s special responsibility to safeguard more vulnerable road users like bicyclists.
This bill is a response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto last October of SB 910, our previous attempt to enact a 3-foot-passing law in California. In his veto message, Gov. Brown expressed support for the concept of the bill but objected to an exception to the 3-foot requirement meant to accommodate drivers in dense urban traffic. SB 1464 solves the governor’s concerns with SB 910 — we’re confident this version of the bill is one that Gov. Brown will sign. Read a comparison of SB 910 and SB 1464.
The bill has been passed by the Senate and was approved by the Assembly on a 50-16 vote on Aug. 27. SB 1464 now goes to Gov. Brown, probably shortly after Labor Day. He’ll have until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law.
What you can do
SB 1464 is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to act on this bill.
1) Urge Gov. Brown to sign SB 1464 into law. Follow the link, enter your zip code, and supply some basic contact information – it’s simple!
If you or someone you know has been hit or buzzed by a driver passing unsafely, be sure to include the basic facts in your message. Your story can help Gov. Brown understand why voting YES on this bill is so important.
2) Help support our Give Me 3 campaign. California bicycling legend Gary Fisher is supporting efforts to ensure that we have the resources to carry us through Gov. Brown’s signature on this bill and beyond. Please join Gary by making a donation today.
Recent videos posted on our You Tube channel showing bicyclists being buzzed, brushed and hit by passing vehicles help demonstrate why California drivers need much better guidance about how to share the road safely with bicyclists. (Amazingly, none of the bicyclists shown in these videos was seriously injured.)
3) Join our mailing list and keep up with the news about SB 1464.