The California Legislature is expected to soon pass a new version of a bicycling safety bill that requires drivers to give bicyclists sufficient space while passing. If the bill is approved, then California would join many states across the country that have passed similar bicycle safety laws. Bill SB 1464 has been authored by Senator Alan Lowenthal Democrat-Long Beach.
Governor Jerry Brown had vetoed a similar version of the bill last year. The Governor found that a provision in the bill that required cars to slow down to 15 mph when they passed bicyclists could be dangerous to both motorists as well as bicyclists. The Governor pointed out that on a street with a speed limit of up to 40 mph, allowing a motorist to slow down to 15 mph to pass bicyclists could actually help increase the risk of accidents, and cause safety problems for bicyclists.
The new version of the bill however, addresses the Governor’s concerns. In the new version, the 15 miles-per-hour rule has been eliminated altogether. The bill instead asks motorists in those situations where the 3-foot rule cannot be observed to slow down to a ‘reasonable and prudent speed’ given the traffic and roadway conditions, when they pass the bicycle.
The bill is not as stringent about giving bicyclist adequate space as Los Angeles bicycle accident attorneys would have hoped for. However, even in this weaker version, a bill requiring motorists to give bicyclists safe space to pass is better than no law at all. That's part of the reason why the bill has been welcomed by many bicycling groups, including the California Bicycle Coalition.