Bill would require drivers give bicyclists 3-foot buffer

8:31 PM, May 25, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Sixteen-year-old high school student Nathaniel Wallner knows it can be hairy to share the road with cars. He got hit from behind going to class recently and ended up with bruises.

"My bike started sliding out from underneath me, like this, and I had to push myself up off the car, and I fell off to the side on the curb. Thankfully I wasn't hurt," Wallner said.

The California state Senate just approved a bill requiring drivers to give cyclists at least a three-foot safety zone when there's no bicycle lane or shoulder as they're passing from behind. The buffer could reduce fatal collisions and dangerous falls. The idea is to give Californians more confidence to ride their bike since about half of their trips are three miles or less.

"Californians want to ride their bikes for those trips," said the California Bike Coalition's Dave Snyder. "They're short, easy trips. But they're afraid to because they know if they get hit from behind, the chances of them surviving are not good."

Forty percent of bicyclists who die in a vehicle collision are hit from behind. YouTube video shows a recent crash in Berkeley -- a Prius hits the two men but they survived.

But, some cyclists have said this proposal could aggravate the already tenuous relationship they have with drivers ... and drivers aren't sure how it would be implemented.

"I'm not sure how they are going to measure that or even enforce that ... or as a driver, when you're driving by, how are you going to be able to know the distance of three feet?" questioned motorist Lisa Lanterman.

Under the proposal, violating the three-foot rule would be an infraction which could lead to a point on your driving record. The fines are expensive: $35 if there's no injury, $220 if there is.

When you add in local and court fees, that's almost $1,000 for the most serious offense.

Wallner would welcome the 3-foot safety zone.

"Which would be about my arm's length -- from here to my fingertips ...Three feet would definitely a lot more protection.

The proposal now heads to the Assembly. About 20 other states have similar legislation.

Nannette Miranda


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