Spring means walkers and bicyclists are sharing the road with other vehicles. A grant-funded effort by the California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Traffic Safety will focus on reducing fatal collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
In California, pedestrians account for nearly 25 percent of all roadway deaths annually, and bicyclists on average account for 4 percent. In an effort to reduce these deaths, the CHP will deploy officers to enhance enforcement operations in locations identified as having high numbers of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities. Education and enforcement efforts will focus on drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Recent data show that Californians are cycling in greater numbers, and this increases our responsibility to ensure cyclist safety. “Bicyclists and pedestrians are some of the most vulnerable users of roadways,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “This grant will promote the importance of alternate modes of transportation by stressing how Californians can safely share the road.”
Activities will be conducted to teach traffic safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists on roadways adjacent to schools. A special focus will be on the school zones where young pedestrians and bicyclists congregate. Additionally, officers will provide basic traffic safety education at bicycle and pedestrian skills clinics. The grant allows the CHP to provide bicycle helmets for children and safety publications for all roadway users at no cost.
So, how can we make a difference? We all need to share the road and respect the rules. As a CHP officer, I have regularly heard people complain to me about some cyclists. “They don’t stop at stop signs;” “They ride against traffic;” or “The sidewalk is for pedestrians.” These are all legitimate complaints. Bicyclists are required to obey the same rules as motor vehicles. Cyclists, you need to be ambassadors of your sport and lead by example. You would not want a vehicle driving the wrong way on the street or running through stop signs. Officers do not let these types of violations go unnoticed and we cannot let the cyclist break the rules of the road, either.
As for vehicles, drivers need to give cyclists space and let them pass safely. We are all fortunate many cities have added bicycle lanes over the last few years to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic and more importantly, to keep cyclists safe. However, there are still many streets without bike lanes, and we all need to share the road.
In September of 2014, a new law went into effect called the “Three Feet For Safety Act.” This law is designed not for enforcement, but for education. Educating the people of California of the various hazards and responsibilities associated with cycling will benefit all our communities with safe cycling and improved relations with other vehicles on the roadway. Give courtesy and earn respect.
California Vehicle Code section 21760 (“Three Feet For Safety Act”) has two relevant subsections as follows: (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, and (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.
An easy way to remember the “Three Feet for Safety Act” is to think of a yardstick. Cyclists, stay visible and predictable. Follow the rules of the road. Motor vehicle operators, don’t be distracted. Keep your eyes on the road and share it. We are all in this together and we need to take care of each other.
Drive safe and ride safe.