California, like many states recently, has adopted the three-foot rule for passing cyclists. The Three Feet for Safety Act makes it illegal for drivers of automobiles to pass with less than three feet of space between their car and a cyclist. For a frame of reference, three feet is roughly the length of a car door when it is opened. Three feet is the bare minimum that a driver should give a cyclist when they pass.
Why Do Cyclists Need at Least Three Feet?
Cycling fatalities account for about two percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes annually, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Two percent may not sound like a lot, but when you take into account the fact that fewer than 1 percent of all trips are made by bike, it is apparent that cyclists face a higher rate of death and injury than those in cars. Cycling is inherently dangerous when sharing the road with vehicles that outweigh a human being by two tons. The three-foot rule gives cyclists a little space to breathe and not feel as intimidated. It also allows a little room for “error” when the driver passes the cyclist. No one can drive or ride in a perfectly straight line. Giving space to cyclists allows them to maneuver around potholes, cracks, gravel, glass, and other dangerous debris that occupies the sides of the streets. Giving over three feet is just plain courteous and if there is more than one lane, simply moving into the other lane to make the pass is preferred.
The Penalties for Violating the Three Foot for Safety Act
There are two fines for violating the three-foot rule in California. A violation without injuring a cyclist is $35, which becomes $233 when court and administration fees are added in. A violation that causes injury to a cyclist is $220, which becomes $959 with court and administration fees.
The Law Does Not Give Motorists a Right to Pass at All Times
California law has never given motorists a right to pass at all times on all roads. The three-foot rule requires drivers to slow down and wait until it is safe to do so, however long that takes. Three feet must be given when the cyclist is in a bike lane as well. Sometimes, the only safe place to ride is the outer left side of a bike lane on or near the white line. When making a pass in this scenario, drivers must move over and allow three feet or more. The three-foot law does not apply to cyclists passing cars. The intent of the law is to protect cyclists from cars, not the other way around. As an example, it would not make sense for a cyclist to be fined for pulling up next to a vehicle at a stop light. Furthermore, the three-foot law is a valuable tool in bicycle and motor vehicle collisions to establish a basis for citing motorists for unsafe passing.
How The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers Can Help in your Bicycle Accident
If you were injured by a motorist that did not give you at least three feet of space to pass while you were riding your bike, you may be entitled to compensation. The negligent party may owe you damages to pay for your medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Our experienced bicycle attorneys at The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers have vast experience in all bike cases and are here to answer any questions you may have. Do not hesitate to give us a call today!