Effective Sept. 16, a new California law goes into effect to better protect cyclists.
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."
You might ask, "Why a new law?" The answer is an increase in bicycle-related incidents on highways.
Most recent data from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System indicates there were 13,940 bicycle collisions in 2012 in California. Of those, there were 146 fatalities. The number of bicycle collisions declined slightly in 2013; however, the number of fatalities rose to 151. Since Jan. 1, there have been 32 fatalities in bicycle collisions. These statistics do not even include 31,215 injured victims in those years as a result of those collisions.
Cycling, be it for recreation, exercise or commuting to work, is on the rise. For example, I ride my bicycle to work twice a week. More cyclists mean we all have to be more alert.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that in 2012, the average age of bicyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles was 43 years old. Eighty-eight percent of the cyclists killed were male. Sixty-nine percent were killed in urban areas. I fit all the criteria, so this is a subject near and dear to me.
How do we make a difference?
First, we need to share the road and respect the rules. As a CHP officer, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people complain to me about cyclists: "They don't stop at stop signs," "they ride against traffic," or "the sidewalk is for pedestrians."
These are legitimate complaints. Bicyclists are required to obey all the rules of the road, same as motor vehicles.
Cyclists, we need to be ambassadors of our sport. How would you like it if the cars at a four-way stop intersection just rolled through at 10 to 20 mph, if they cut across intersections, jumped curbs whenever they wished, or drove the wrong way on a street?
Second, motorists need to give cyclists space and pass safely. We are fortunate many cities have added bicycle lanes over the last few years to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic while keeping cyclists safe. However, there are still many streets without bike lanes. We need to share the road.
This new law is designed not so much for enforcement, but for education. Making all the drivers in California aware of the various hazards associated with cycling and how we can all benefit from kindness and consideration.
The CHP understands safety begins from education. In an effort to promote safe cycling, we are joining with Clovis to host a bicycle checkup and safety course. It will be held on Saturday at 633 Pollasky Ave., from 8 a.m. until noon.
Local bike shops will be performing free bicycle and helmet inspections. There will be a skills training course and a bicycle registration booth hosted by the Clovis Police Department.
This event is designed to get children's bicycles in shape for the new school year and to teach young people some cycling basics, but everyone is invited.
An easy way to remember the Three Feet for Safety Act is to think of a yard stick. We need you to do your part. Cyclists, stay visible and predictable. Follow the rules of the road. Motorists, don't be distracted. Keep your eyes on the road and share it, because sharing is caring.
Drive safe and ride safe.