California is fast becoming a bicycle friendly state, with cities like San Francisco, Long Beach, and even car centric Los Angeles making huge steps to accommodate cyclists.
Last Friday, bike riders in the Golden State were handed a big setback from none other than their own Governor Jerry Brown when he vetoed a three foot passing law for cyclists being passed by another vehicle; the same three feet given to cyclists in 19 other states.
He reason for failing to approve the bill; there was a clause that stated if a driver can’t give a cyclist three feet then they should slow to 15 mph. when passing.
Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol were opposed to the bill because… wait for it… there might be a danger of cars rear ending each other if a motor vehicle had to slow to pass a cyclist.
Give me a break… Cars have to slow down or stop for all manner of reasons; a vehicle waiting to turn left is probably the most common. If someone runs in the back of another vehicle they are either following too close, or they are not paying attention.
Speed limits are just that, a limit on how fast you can drive, not the speed you must maintain at all times; people need to get used to this concept. The actual speed depends on road and weather conditions.
So what Jerry Brown, Caltrans and the CHP is saying is that it is okay to rear end a cyclist, if braking and slowing may cause the idiot who is tailgating you, to rear end you. Not a smart move Jerry Brown, there must be tens, if not hundreds of thousands of cyclists in California and you’ve just lost their vote.
My own state of South Carolina does not have a three foot law per se; it simply states that a cyclist must be given a safe distance when passing. A safe distance depends a lot on the speed of the vehicle passing. I really don’t have a problem if a car gives me less than three feet, if they slow to just a few mph. more than my speed. If they go by at 60 mph. three feet is not enough.
Recently when a local cyclist was killed by a distracted driver, the charge was “Improper lane use” with a fine of $115. So in this case passing at a safe distance for some reason didn’t apply.
Always when a state tries to pass a three foot law, the opposition says it is unenforceable. Maybe so, but it is a good guideline; most people know how much space three feet is. However, unless there are penalties, serious consequences for killing or injuring a cyclist, then “Safe Distance” or “Three Feet” it makes little difference.
When Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed a similar bill in that state, the City of Austin passed its own three foot law; this is probably the way California cities will have to go.
In the mean time Jerry Brown did approve a couple of other important pieces of legislation. A bill to ban the sale of shark fins in California, and another to prevent cities from banning circumcision.
This means sharks are safe now; cyclists and little boy’s penises… not so safe.