V C Section 21760 Three Feet for Safety Act

Text of the new law, from the CA DMV website:

V C Section 21760 Three Feet for Safety Act

21760.  (a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the Three Feet for Safety Act.

(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.

(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.

(e) (1) A violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) is an infraction punishable by a fine of thirty–five dollars ($35).

(2) If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the operator of the bicycle, and the driver of the motor vehicle is found to be in violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d), a two–hundred–twenty–dollar ($220) fine shall be imposed on that driver.

(f) This section shall become operative on September 16, 2014.

Yep, this is the law now. I don’t know why today is the effective date, makes me wonder what else has become law on other random seeming dates. I’d imagine there’s many that slide into effect with no fanfare or notice. This one I’m perhaps more aware of, being a cyclist, but it has gotten coverage in mainstream media as well, so I’m guessing there’s a chance that many non-cyclists have at least heard of it.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Just because it’s the law doesn’t mean that it will be followed. Or enforced.

The fine for a violation is thirty-five dollars ($35).

If the violation results in bodily injury to the cyclist, the fine is two-hundred-twenty-dollars ($220).

That’s right.




pick jaw up off floor. sputter sputter. really?

The HOV lane penalty is more than that.

I doubt that will be much of a deterrent. How big would the number have to be, though? And should financial sanction be the only thing that stops people from doing something dangerous?

How about this – I am a human being. Just because I am on a bicycle does not change that fact. Regardless of what the law says or doesn’t say or what the penalty is, it is not OK to run me over, run me off the road or harass me. In any way.

Which, really do I even have to be saying this? Alas, common courtesy, like common sense, is not always.

Anyway, several cyclist friends who have posted links to articles about the new law have also noted to not read the comments. Apparently there is some very anti-cyclist sentiment out there. I encountered some recently from law enforcement. Not directed at me personally, but as part of a presentation on traffic safety at my work. Part of me wanted to say something, but I really didn’t know where even to begin. I guess part of me would like to know what prompts it. Please explain to me.

Yes, I know some cyclists do stupid and/or illegal things. But that can be said about any group of people. It doesn’t mean that everyone in that particular group is like that.

Something I read, I’m forgetting where now, offered an explanation that cyclists are viewed as recreational users, that we are choosing to be out there. But most driving is recreational too. So there’s something more. That we’re in the way? That roads are for cars only? What is it?

I realize things won’t change overnight, and some people may never change. But hopefully the Three Feet for Safety will raise awareness and give opportunities for discussion and education.

Further reading: Good post on traffic engineering aspects, road users with differential speeds and passing.

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6 Responses to V C Section 21760 Three Feet for Safety Act

  1. judigoldberg says:

    i would not consider myself pro or con bicycle riders but i am pro and con jerks, whether in cars or on bicycles and as a pedestrian on shared trails i have run into or nearly been run into by more than a fair share of bicyclists who regard me as a pedestrian a whole lot like most bicycle riders think car drivers regard them. so on both sides courtesy would go a long way and paying attention to others would serve as all very well.
    and so, if a bicycle has more than five cars lined up behind him or her, does he or she need to pull over and let them pass?

  2. afly onthewall says:

    The cyclist is considered a vehicle and if California had a law about pulling over when more than 5 cars were behind they would technically have to pull over. To my knowledge CA does not have a 5 car rule similar to Oregon and if it does it certainly isn’t enforced. But this is were the unwritten law of common courtesy should come into play. Hopefully the 3 Foot Law gets amended to allow cars to change lanes to pass a cyclist even if the line is solid yellow and when is safe to do so.

  3. nutMeg says:

    CA Vehicle code does have this:

    Turning Out of Slow-Moving Vehicles
    21656. On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. As used in this section a slow-moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.

    So looks like would be the case to pull over if bicycle is considered slow-moving vehicle. There does need to be a spot where it’s safe to pull over though, and I think motorists sometimes expect cyclists to just jump off the road into the bushes.

  4. Roland says:

    The fine amounts sound low (and I agree they are). Typically with all the extra “fees” that get tacked on the amount are more like 4 to 5 times what’s printed, so that $35 fee becomes $140+, and the $220 fee is almost $1000. (http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/traffic-ticket-fines-and-penalties.php) Still, it would seem to be a better deterrent to advertise the *true* cost of the infraction, rather than the piffling low amount.

    What I don’t understand: why is it $35 for essentially menacing behavior, and $220 for injuring or killing someone (if found guilty), but it’s $100 to $1000 for littering? (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d18/vc42001_7.htm) Really? Perhaps injured cyclists should argue that the driver is guilty of littering the road with their broken bikes and bodies.

    Of course, nobody has ever seen the littering law enforced and we have plenty of trash on our roadways to prove that. More work for the many jailed offenders of minor offenses.

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