An open letter in support of SB 910, California’s proposed three-foot passing law

As you may be aware, the California Senate recently passed the state’s proposed three-foot passing law. Now it’s under consideration in the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee, with a deadline of 5 pm Tuesday to offer your comments.

I have strongly supported three-foot passing laws throughout my riding career. As I’ve pointed out before, I consider it a much-needed improvement over the current vague standard in place in California and most other states.

As a result, I’ve written the following letter to Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair of the Transportation Committee, to express my support and urge the removal of a clause that would allow passing at less three when travelling at a speed differential of less than 15 mph. This clause undermines the purpose of the bill, and would increase driver confusion and the risk to riders, rather than decreasing it as the law intends.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to write Lowenthal to express your support; it also can’t hurt to send a copy your own Assemblymember and the bill’s author, Sen. Alan Lowenthal, while you’re at it.

You can find a sample letter and more instructions here.

……..

Hon. Bonnie Lowenthal
Chair, Assembly Transportation Committee
State Capital, Room 112
Sacramento, CA 95814
Assemblymember.Lowenthal@assembly.ca.gov

Dear Assemblymember Lowenthal,

I’m writing to express my support for Senate Bill 910 and to urge the committee to approve the bill on June 27, with one vital amendment.

As a serious bicyclist and California resident, I have ridden a bike on the streets and highways of this state for over 20 years. During that time, I have experienced a number of close calls that have threatened my life and safety due to drivers passing too closely.

I have had drivers pass so close that their mirrors have brushed against my arm, and had passengers reach out to touch me or dump liquids on me. I have been crowded off various roadways, both accidently and intentionally, and nearly collided with parked vehicles as a result, as well as being blown out of my lane by the slipstream from passing trucks and buses. In fact, I can count on being passed at a dangerously close distance at least once or twice virtually every time I ride. I can only credit luck and my own skill as a cyclist for having avoided serious injuries as a result.

On more than one occasion, I have managed to confront drivers who have passed me at such a dangerously close distance; almost invariably, the drivers were convinced that they observed a safe passing distance, demonstrated by the fact that they didn’t actually make contact with me.

The current standard for safe passing is both unclear and confusing, providing no objective measurement to tell drivers what is a safe passing distance. This law clarifies that, providing a clear standard that anyone can understand. Its passage is vital to protect the safety of cyclists, reduce needless confrontations between cyclists and motorists, and encourage more people to choose bikes as a safe form of alternative transportation.

However, I must request that the current bill be amended to remove the provision allowing passage at less than three feet with a speed differential of 15 mph or less. This provision creates a confusing, unmeasurable standard that benefits no one while undermining the key provision of this bill. As a result, it serves to increase the risk to cyclists rather than decreasing it, and is almost universally opposed by every cyclist I have discussed it with. As an alternative, briefly allowing drivers to cross the center or lane line to pass a bicyclist maintains the spirit of the law, while permitting safe passing under most circumstances.

I urge you to pass this important bill, with the above amendment,  to help make our streets safer for everyone.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
www.bikinginla.com
@bikinginla (Twitter)

CC: Senator Alan Lowenthal, Assemblymember Mike Feuer

16 comments

  1. Steve A says:

    “I can count on being passed at a dangerously close distance at least once or twice virtually every time I ride.”

    Perhaps you should reexamine how you ride. I can recall no close passes in 12000 miles of cycling over the last three years. Needless to say, I’m less enthusiastic than you about the bill; particularly with its fatal flaws. Personally, I believe such legislation exists so bike advocates can claim they are doing something in lieu of doing something that actually benefits cyclists.

    • bikinginla says:

      Steve, don’t be an ass. I’ve been riding for 30 years, mostly on urban streets. I ride vehicularly when the situation calls for it, and prefer quieter streets and biking infrastructure when I can find it. However, I can’t control the actions of other road users, nor can I do anything about the confusion caused by the present law when I’m on the road.

      And your 12,000 miles over the last 3 years kind of pales next to the 20,000+ I’ve put in over the same period. Let alone the 200,000 plus miles I’ve put in over the last 30 years. And yes, those figures are both very conservative estimates.

      Feel free to criticize my support of this bill. But don’t criticize how I ride until you’ve ridden with me, or have the slightest clue what you’re talking about.

      • Timothy Daniels says:

        That’s funny, after reading Steve’s reply, I was thinking “what an ass”. I’m glad it wasn’t just me.

  2. [...] Update: The bill has been amended so that motorists have an option of passing at least 3 feet or with the 15 MPH speed difference. The and has been replaced with or. SB 910 passed the state Senate and now sits in the state Assembly Transportation Committee. [...]

  3. plebisPower says:

    Having been struck in the elbow while riding at the extreme right side of Mulholland last year – and finding that the LAFD wouldn’t let me use a phone to report it – I wholeheartedly support this bill. You can find Better Bike’s position and letter of support here:
    http://www.betterbikebeverlyhills.org/news/ab345givesusavoice

  4. Did we coordinate posts today? Did I miss something:)

  5. The 15mph differential portion of the bill is being removed.

    Thanks for all your clear thinking discussion about sb910.

    Hope to see you at the hearing, wear your 3-foot button.

  6. eric says:

    Hello BikingLA,
    Any news on whether the bill passed yesterday?
    -Eric

  7. RMH says:

    Hello, just to say I also support this as I to have had many close calls with motor vehicles driving too fast and too close.

    I do have a question. Once this is law if it becomes law how will the public be informed and know about he law? How will it be enforced ?

    Will it be as useless the cell phone law? I see people on cell phones every day just about every where I look and I do not see that law being enforced. Will this law become a non enforced law as well?

  8. gavilan5088 says:

    This is another pointless and onesided law. Cyclist continue to ride on or over the white line on the roadways with 10′ wide shoulders and bike lanes. Most of the time riding in large clusters pretending thier in the tour de france with TOTAL disreguard for motor vehicle traffic. The Law should read cyclist need to stay 3′ away motor vehicle traffic.
    This law will have an adverse affect on commerce and create even more grid lock on our roadways. After all, the roadways were built to support interstate commerce and paid for with motor vehicle and fuel taxes. The roads were not built for your cycling entertainment.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thank you for sharing your misguided interpretation of our roadways.

      However, other than interstate highways, none of our streets or highways exist for the purpose of serving interstate commerce. And even if they did, that would be just as valid an argument for banning most cars, since the overwhelming majority are used neither in commerce nor taken out of state for that purpose.

      Like the vast majority of bike riders, I am both a cyclist and a driver, which means I pay the same gas and motor vehicle fees you do. As I taxpayer, I also subsidize the traffic lanes you and every other motorist use, since gas taxes only cover a small fraction of road costs.

      As for bikes having to keep three feet away from cars, I’ll accept that the moment you can show me a driver who was killed by a passing bike.

      • gavilan5088 says:

        Your the one that is misguided. As the romans were the first to pave roads to move products of commerce. If history has any part of this debate the bike didn’t even exist. Roads are built to move commerce not entertainment.
        The vast majority of bike rides don’t know the meaning of sharing the road. They have the attitude that they own it. The Billions of dollars used to widen roads and put in bike lanes only to go unuse by cyclists. As a cyclist you take up 3′ of space in 10′ of bike lane or shoulder. Yet cyclist continue to ride on the white lines or in the traffic lanes. With the traffic lanes at 12′ and cars 7′wide and trucks 10′ wide who do you think is hogging the road?
        Cyclist need to ride within the bike lanes and shoulders. You also need to keep spacing between bikes and not drafting in large groups abreast of one another. If you do those things you’ll have your 3′ and not bring traffic to a crawl.
        Cyclist need to learn how to be honest with themselves as to the real reasons these incidents happen on the road.

        • bikinginla says:

          Yes, the Romans were the first to pave roads; not just for commerce but more accurately, to speed the movement of their troops in order to control their empire. However, in this country, roads were first paved for and by cyclists; the Good Roads Movement was strictly for the benefit of bike riders.

          You also seem to believe that all bike riding is strictly for entertainment, ignoring that many bike riders do so for transportation, just as drivers do. And many motor vehicles are driven for recreation, rather than commerce or transportation.

          In fact, I just got home from riding 25 miles roundtrip from the Westside to Downtown to attend a meeting, and will do so again tomorrow. While it may have been more fun than driving, I think that hardly qualifies as “entertainment.”

          Personally, I would love to have a 10″ foot bike lane, even though I’ve personally never seen one that wide in over 30 years of bicycling; 4 to 6 feet is far more common. The only thing I’ve ever seen that comes close to that width is a combination bike lane/parking lane, which leaves riders three feet of usable space, at best.

          Roads are seldom, if ever, widened to put in a bike lane, let alone at a cost of billions. Most bike lanes require nothing more than a line of paint on the shoulder, and/or the narrowing of traffic lanes or removal of a few parking spaces to make room, at pennies on the dollar compared to building automobile lanes.

          And you yourself say bikes only take up three feet, compared to multiple 12 foot lanes for motor vehicles — yet you think it’s bikes that are taking up the space? Seriously? Trust me, it’s not the relative handful of bike riders causing congestion on the roads; it’s the tens of thousands of drivers just like you. Removing every single cyclist on the roads would not reduce congestion or speed your commute by more than a few seconds at best.

          All we’re asking is that you give us a lousy three feet to spare the life of another human being. Yet you want to claim the entire roadway for yourself; we want three feet, while you want it all. And you think we’re the road hogs?

          As for the real reason incidents happen on the road, it seems to be about a 50/50 split between drivers and cyclists as for who is at fault in collisions. However, there have been studies suggesting that drivers at fault in most collisions — as high as 90%, in fact

          Like it or not, cyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of motorists under the vehicle code. And are legally allowed on every roadway motor vehicles are, with the single exception of some limited access freeways.

    • You wouldn’t want to drive your car through all the debris on road shoulders, yet you want cyclists to be forced to ride through it so that “commerce” won’t be affected?

      What a ridiculous view. Speed limits are used for safety and traffic calming. Slowing down and moving over to pass a cyclist could save a life. There is no value in injury or death.

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