In September 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new “three-foot rule” that now legally requires all motorists in California to drive at least 36 inches (equivalent to three feet) away when passing a bicyclist. If it is impossible to stay at least three feet away, drivers must slow down to a safe and reasonable speed when driving near bicyclists.

Many California drivers have already voiced concern about violation tickets related to breaking this law and how it may affect drivers. Here is a brief run-down of what you should know about the three-foot rule to calm your fears of this new change and why it really is beneficial for all road users.

Q: Since Gov. Brown already signed the “Three-Foot Rule” into law, are the police enforcing it now?
A: No, the law will officially take effect a year from when it was passed. Law officials will be enforcing the new law on September 16, 2014.

Q: In order to stay at least three feet away from cyclists, can drivers cross over double-yellow lines to avoid getting too close when passing?
A: No. Under no circumstances are drivers allowed to cross double-yellow lines. In this situation, drivers are required to slow down to a safe and reasonable speed to pass a bicyclist if the bicyclist is within three feet in proximity to their vehicle.

Q: Does the law only apply to roads with bike lanes?
A: No, the law applies to roads with and without bike lanes. Drivers must give cyclists at least three feet of space on any type of road.

Q: What is the violation for breaking the “Three-Foot Rule?”
A: Although violation fines may vary or change in the future, drivers that pass bicyclists with less than a three-foot buffer or pass at an unsafe speed within the three-foot buffer will be approximately fined with a $35 ticket. If the violation of the three-foot rule causes an accident that injures the bicyclists, the driver may face a $220 violation ticket and potential legal battle.

Although some California drivers believe this new law will negatively affect them, there is absolutely no reason for any driver to fear a violation ticket under this new law if all drivers remember to use extra caution for vulnerable road users, like bicyclists. We applaud the new three-foot rule in California and its effort to protect cyclists from injuries/deaths on the road and even drivers from the consequences of causing a bicycle accident. What do you think about the new California law for bicyclists?

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