Legalised Passing Distance


Advocates come together in Los Angeles this weekend

November 4, 2011 By admin

About 140 people will gather in Los Angeles this weekend to plan strategies for uniting and strengthening our movement, and winning policy changes that will get a million more Californians on bikes.


Filed Under: News

Brown’s confusing reason for vetoing SB 910 doesn’t make the problem go away

October 7, 2011 By jimbrown

This afternoon Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 910, our bill to establish three feet as the minimum passing distance when drivers pass bicyclists from behind under most circumstances.

We share the disappointment of the thousands of Californians who contacted their legislators and the Governor on behalf of this bill and of author Sen. Alan Lowenthal and our cosponsor Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who worked hard along with us to get this bill enacted.

Here is the Governor’s veto message:

The intent of this bill is to improve bicyclist safety, a goal I wholeheartedly support.

This bill changes the longstanding law for how motor vehicles should pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction. Current law requires drivers to pass at a safe distance; this bill would specify that the distance must be at least 3 feet or at a speed not exceeding 15mph.

This bill offers some needed and clear improvement to the law such as specifying a minimum buffer of 3 feet. However, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol have raised legitimate concerns about other provisions such as the 15mph requirement. On streets with speed limits of 35 or 40mph, slowing to 15mph to pass a bicycle could cause rear end collisions. On other roars, a bicycle may travel at or new 15 mph creating a long line of cars behind the cyclist.

I encourage the author, proponents, and opponents to send me a bill next year that solves these problems….

Frankly, we’re baffled by this statement. How can the Governor support a three-foot buffer and simultaneously oppose a requirement that motorists slow down until they can provide a three-foot buffer?! We offered him positive examples of other states that have enacted these laws without any of the problems imagined by Caltrans and the CHP. We also shared research findings that show how improved safety enables more people to choose bicycling for transportation in a way that actually reduces all types of vehicle collisions and makes the roads safer for everyone.

The Governor’s veto doesn’t make the hazards associated with unsafe passing go away. Drivers will continue guessing how much clearance to give bicyclists when passing and those who get it wrong will continue injuring and killing bicyclists. Until the Governor appreciates the need to make real changes to existing law, more bicyclists will continue to die from drivers hitting them from behind than from any other cause.

The Governor’s reason for vetoing SB 910 demonstrates the pervasive misunderstanding among so many public officials about how bicyclists use the road and the actual specifics of existing law, including why it’s inadequate for protecting bicyclists from preventable hazards.

Today’s news is one more reminder of how tough it can be to change car-centric attitudes in California. But the state’s goals for improved air quality and public health simply can’t be met without making it safer for more Californians to get to school, work and essential services without having to drive a car. California needs bicycling. We’re confident the Governor will eventually come to recognize this.

Fortunately, SB 910 awakened a sleeping giant, the thousands of Californians who care about the safety of those who travel by bicycle. We’ve heard from adults and teens, parents and spouses, teachers, healthcare providers, law enforcement officers and corporate leaders who want safer roads. Gov. Brown can count on these constituents to continue asking him to safeguard all Californians on the road, and not simply the interests of drivers and their defenders at Caltrans and the CHP.

This issue isn’t going away and neither are we.

Filed Under: News

CBC refutes CHP speculation that SB 910 will cause collisions

October 4, 2011 By jimbrown

The California Bicycle Coalition has compiled evidence showing that 3-foot-passing laws haven’t had any negative impacts on traffic flows in other states that have enacted these laws, and that such laws are actually boosting bicycle ridership and changing driver behavior for the better.

CBC is responding to reports that the California Highway Patrol is conjuring up worst-case scenarios as part of its whispering campaign to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to veto Senate Bill 910, the 3-foot-passing bill cosponsored by the CBC and the City of Los Angeles.

The CHP reportedly is telling Gov. Brown that SB 910 would cause an epidemic of rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes when they realize they don’t have space to pass bicyclists by at least three feet. Yet the CHP hasn’t produced any evidence of such problems in any of the 20 states that have 3-foot-passing laws on the books.

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, the nation’s oldest bicycling advocacy organization, wrote this week in a letter to Gov. Brown, “In our experience working with the 19 [sic] other states that have passed three-foot passing laws, we have heard of no increases in the number of motor vehicle crashes due to the new requirements or any increased burden on law enforcement. In contrast, we have received nothing but positive responses to these laws.”

The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin has seen no traffic problems in the 38 years since Wisconsin enacted the nation’s first 3-foot-passing law. “I’m not aware of any negative repercussions on traffic safety or capacity due to the passage of this law,” wrote Kevin Hardman, the federation’s executive director, in a letter to the CBC.

That’s also been Minnesota’s experience under the nation’s second 3-foot-passing law, enacted in the mid-1980s. “[The law] has, however, had a positive impact on bicycling,” wrote Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota Executive Director Dorian Grilley. “Over half of Minnesotans bicycle and they are bicycling more frequently.  Motor vehicle drivers seem to have noticed this fact and appear to be at the beginning stages of a significant cultural shift toward respecting bicyclists and pedestrians….”

Grilley’s observation is supported by the landmark 2003 study, Safety in Numbers, which demonstrates that increases in bicycle ridership reduce the incidence of all types of bike-car collisions.

Nothing like the CHP’s nightmare occurred in Arizona after it became the nation third state to enact a 3-foot-passing law. “With respect to any assertion that this kind of law may cause some major difficulties or ‘mayhem,’ we simply have not found that to be the case in Arizona, where the law has been in effect for approximately ten years,” wrote Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists President Robert Beane.

Same in Oklahoma, according to Mike Flenniken of the Oklahoma Bicycle Coalition: “No motorists have died or been injured because of the law, not one editorial or letter to the editor has been published against the law, [and] in fact, one municipality that I know of (Edmond, Oklahoma) acted at the request of their police officers to install an ordinance to add teeth to the State law which would make it enforceable even if there were no injuries incurred.”

Nor did anyone in Nevada raise the possibility of problems when that state’s bill was being debated. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada’s 3-foot-passing law, which took effect last Saturday, attracted no opposition at all. The Nevada Senate unanimously approved 3-foot-passing legislation in April 2011.

Originally CHP supported SB 910, a surprising sea change from five years ago, when it managed to get CBC’s earlier 3-foot-passing bill killed in its first legislative hearing.

Throughout the legislative debate over SB 910, CHP said it supported the idea of giving bicyclists at least three feet of space. And CHP actually wrote the portion of SB 910 that authorizes drivers to cross a solid double-yellow centerline – currently prohibited under CA law – to give bicyclists at least three feet when passing.

Dan Empfield, publisher of Slowtwitch, contacted the CHP’s legislative representative Capt. Avery Brown about the CHP’s opposition to the bill. Brown told Empfield the CHP prefers to see text in the bill that does not mandate a specific distance.

In effect, the CHP endorses the status quo in California, where existing state law leaves drivers to figure out what constitutes a “safe” passing distance and where more bicyclists are killed by drivers passing from behind than by any other single cause. CBC and the City of Los Angeles continue to insist that the situation is unfair to drivers and presents an unreasonable hazard for people who rely on bicycles for transportation.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 Californians, including bicycle advocates, bicycling club officials and members, survivors and the families of victims of passing-from-behind collisions, parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and corporate leaders, have written to Gov. Brown to urge him to sign SB 910.

Filed Under: News Tagged With: Give Me 3, safe passing, SB 910

VICTORY! Assembly approves 3-foot passing bill, sends to Governor

September 2, 2011 By jimbrown


California drivers could see signs like this one if Gov. Jerry Brown signs SB 910 into law.


California is one step closer to providing better protection for bicyclists when sharing the road with other vehicles.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the California Assembly voted 44 to 25 to approve Senate Bill 910, the 3-foot passing bill co-sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and the City of Los Angeles. The bill was approved by the California Senate in June and now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

If Brown signs the bill into law, California would be the 19th state to require drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing them from behind in the same lane.

“We’ve heard too many stories of people having close calls or worse caused by drivers not giving enough space as they pass someone on a bicycle. This new law will make it easier to educate drivers to give a little more space,” said CBC Executive Director Dave Snyder. “Protecting people who want to bicycle — and making that choice an easier one for people to make — is an important step in making California a healthier and safer place to live.”

Under existing law, drivers who overtake other vehicles and bicycles from behind in the same lane must do so at an unspecified “safe” distance. SB 910 specifies three feet as the minimum passing distance when drivers pass bicyclists from behind.

The next step in our safe passing campaign is for the Governor to sign SB 910. ”I hope that Governor Brown appreciates how important it is that we can tell drivers to give three feet. It’s a critical tool to get drivers to be a little more mindful when they pass someone on a bicycle. By signing this bill, he’ll help save lives, and encourage more people to ride bicycles.”

Filed Under: Breaking news, News



About the Author

Promoting everyday cycling