Three Feet for Bicycle Safety

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Following the lead of many other states, California has enacted a new law, which took effect last September, requiring that car drivers maintain a minimum three-foot buffer when passing a bicyclist, an important revision to a previous state law which required drivers to pass bicyclists at a "safe distance."

The new law requires motorists to slow down and wait to pass until it is safe to do so, including on narrow roads. Three feet is roughly equivalent to a fully open passenger-side door, or the length of an acoustic guitar.

This law will be particularly significant where a violation results in a collision that injures a bicyclist, because it establishes a basis for citing the driver for unsafe passing. For a non-injury violation, a car driver will effectively be charged $233, consisting of a $35 base fine plus court and administrative costs. For a violation that involves a collision injuring a bicyclist, the base fine is $220, which becomes a $959 fine with fees.

More information on the law can be found on-line at and in this video at