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California considering a three-feet buffer law for drivers wanting to pass cyclists

Will a mandated three-foot buffer between cyclists and motorists make biking in LA safer?
Will a mandated three-foot buffer between cyclists and motorists make biking in LA safer?
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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The Three Feet for Safety Act recently passed in the Senate by 31-7 and is awaiting a final vote in the Assembly. AB 1371, sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), requires drivers to give cyclists a three-foot buffer zone when travelling in the same direction.

California law currently states that drivers can pass cyclists at a safe distance, but it’s never been defined what that distance is. Many states have established three feet as a standard distance, and Pennsylvania’s law mandates a four-feet buffer to pass.

AB 1371 is not California’s first attempt at establishing bike safety laws. Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed two previous attempts, but those bills called for drivers to slow down and gave drivers permission to cross the center line to pass cyclists. That language doesn’t exist this time around, but drivers who do not give cyclists the three-feet buffer would be fined a minimum of $35, $220 if there’s a collision.

Lawmakers such as Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) say that it’s difficult to gauge a three-feet distance and cyclists sometimes need to swerve. If AB 1371 passes, it will go into effect in September 2014.

Should California implement the Three Feet for Safety Act? Is three feet not enough or too much space to pass cyclists? As a motorist, what’s your experience passing cyclists? Are you a cyclist with some close calls? What’s the best way to improve road safety for cyclists and motorists?


Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), represents the 62nd district of California; he sponsored AB1371.