Legislation meant to improve bicyclist safety statewide has cleared another hurdle towards passage. S.B. 910, sponsored by Senator Lowenthal (D – Long Beach), made it onto the state’s legislative agenda early this month at literally the 11th hour. It will now go before various committees, the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee being the first on May 3rd, before coming to the floor for a vote.
S.B. 910 is the legislative result of the “Give me 3” campaign launched last summer by Mayor Villaraigosa, LADOT, LAPD, LACBC, and Midnight Ridazz. Because the only way to get a 3-foot passing law in Los Angeles is to first change the California Vehicle Code (CVC), the Mayor’s Office began seeking out a legislative sponsor to bring a 3-foot passing law to the California State Assembly. That sponsor came in the form of Long Beach’s State Senator Alan Lowenthal, a long-time supporter of bicyclists and bicyclists’ rights. A special thanks also goes out to the California Bicycle Coalition, who teamed up with the Mayor early in the process to champion this legislation for bicyclists’ rights at the state level.
The original language of SB 910 was submitted back in February of 2011, though it only read as a placeholder for his office to work out specific wording later. The bill was amended to its current state at the end of March, and was agendized on Friday, April 8th – literally the last day legislation could be scheduled for committee review.
The next step for SB 910 is to go through a set of committee hearings, the first of which comes on May 3rd when it goes to the Committee on Transportation and Housing. LADOT Bike Blog will keep you up to date on SB 910’s progress as they happen.
3-foot Minimum, 15 mph Maximum, $250 Minimum
The particulars of the bill are:
- Drivers will not only be required to pass bicyclists at a safe distance, as is already required in CVC 21750, but will also require drivers to pass bicyclists at a distance of at least 3 feet.
- In addition to strictly defining the minimum distance required to pass a bicyclist safely, the new legislation would also require drivers to pass a bicyclist at no more than 15 mph faster than the speed of the bicyclist. Requiring drivers to slow down when passing a bicyclist will make roads safer for everyone.
- An infraction of passing a bicyclist in an unsafe manner used to carry a fine of no more than $100 for the first offense and no more than $250 for a 3rd offense that occurred within 1 year of 2 prior infractions. The new legislation sets a $250 minimum for the first infraction. Furthermore, the bill would make a felony or misdemeanor out of violating the law if an infraction on the part of the driver leads to the injury of the bicyclist involved.
Education & Prevention
Common criticism of a 3-foot passing law stems from its difficulty to enforce on the roadway, but such arguments miss part of the discussion. By passing 3-foot legislation, California will further re-affirm bicyclists’ right to the road and provide further opportunities to educate drivers on how to properly share the road with other users. A robust public education campaign, spearheaded by a group like CABO or the CBC, could reach many California drivers. After all, seat belt laws are equally difficult to enforce, yet use of seat belts by drivers has become nearly universal.