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Do You Support SB 1464, the 3-Foot Passing Rule?

A bill has passed the state Senate requiring automobiles to pass no closer than 3 feet to bicyclists. What do you think? Take our poll and tell us in the comments.

In the wake a vehicle collision that killed a bicyclist, and with the city of Santa Monica installing more than 30 new miles of bike and sharrow lanes, we're gauging local opinions about SB 1464.

The proposed state law—which would make it a legal requirement for automobiles to give bicyclists a minimum clearance of 3 feet when passing—has the support of Los Angeles cyclists.

SB 1464 has now passed the state Senate and is up for a vote by the Assembly Friday.

"The state of California is one step closer to safer cycling!" blogger Jordan Miles wrote on the LADOT Bike Blog in June, after the California Assembly Transportation Committee voted in favor of the bill.

An earlier version of the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown because it would have required motorists to reduce their speed to at least 15 mph if providing three feet of passing space was not possible, Miles explained.

This past spring, the City of Los Angeles, with the support of organizations across the state, including the California Bicycle Coalition, initiated a second attempt at a three foot passing law, Senate Bill 1464. This bill, which has the same intentions for increasing the safety of bicyclists throughout California, has changed some of its language in order to better appeal to the Governor.

Rather than require a specific reduced speed when the 3-foot passing space is not feasible, the new bill allows vehicles to slow to “a speed that is slow and prudent,” taking into consideration other traffic conditions.

How would you vote if it were up to you?

Tell us in the comments, keeping in mind that we ask commenters to use names when taking part in our community dialogue.

If you'd rather remain anonymous, you may email your comment to jenna.chandler@patch.com.

Either way, please take our non-scientific poll below to let us know where you stand on this issue.

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David Huntsman August 23, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Probably the most important thing to consider when evaluating a proposed law like this is that it is not an "adults only" world on the public roads. That cyclist so many of you are denying the (absolutely minimal, almost token) safety of a 3-foot buffer zone may be a child. Keep in mind that if speed limits for motor vehicle operation were not as high as they are, a 3-foot passing law wouldn't matter nearly as much.
Mara T August 26, 2012 at 09:09 AM
What would happen on Topanga Canyon? There is no passing for most, if not all of the way through, and not enough space for a 3' space. When I encounter bikers on that road I slow way down and give them as much room as possible, it's a very risky proposition for these hardy souls to ride on that road, but slowing car traffic to bike speed is not the answer either. There is now a law that asks drivers to change lanes, when possible or slow way down when passing a police traffic stop... much more reasonable and would fit for cars encountering bikes.
Odysseus Bostick August 27, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I think that we need to encourage more cycling in all aspects of our community. A law of this kind would break the psychological barrier for some potential riders and encourage our gradual shift away from transportation that just focuses on moving cars. In my opinion, anything that shifts the perspective to moving people, not just cars, is positive.
SK August 28, 2012 at 09:50 AM
From the California DMV Handbook: Business or Residence Districts: The speed limit is 25 mph, unless otherwise posted. Do not wear a headset or earplugs in both ears while driving. Experienced, safe, considerate drivers make room for cyclists, or skateboarders, Segwayers, pedestrians, dogs running loose (are they getting a three foot law as well?) to avoid a collision, and experienced, safe and considerate cyclists (or others, see list above) would do their best to avoid collisions as well. As a driver, I could be arrested on the spot for reckless driving (not just ticketed) if I blew through a stop sign with a quick left/right glance as I observed the iPod wearing, out of lane, speeding cyclist do last week on Colorado Blvd. I was required to take a driving test and a written test (more than once) to be allowed behind the wheel of a car, but don't see that level of expectation for cyclists. There are no licenses required to ride a bike and I have yet to see any enforcement of road rules to any cyclists, ever. My goal is to get to my destination with myself and others intact. Hope that "chatting" doesn't get someone killed.
David Huntsman August 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
SK, motorists are on the roads by the grace of the rest of the non-motorized road users. They are required to be licensed because of the dangers posed by their means of transportation. Bicycles, obviously, do not pose anything remotely close to the dangers cars do.
Gary Kavanagh August 28, 2012 at 05:30 PM
First of all, the number of inexperienced, unsafe and inconsiderate drivers is substantial enough, that efforts to paint drivers as some universally glowing example of citizenry and everyone else as having no regard for rules would be absolutely laughable if it were not so tragic how many drivers kill themselves (number one type of traffic death is single vehicle collision), and much more sadly, others through recklessness. If you blew through a stop sign in a car, odds are you would get no ticket, because breaking the rules of any kind rarely results in enforcement. Driver compliance with stop signs is also far from a pristine track record, the California roll didn't get to be a saying because of anything to do with riding a bike. And contrary to popular belief, drivers ticket bicyclists for breaking the rules on a regular basis, I hear of it all the time from people who come to wanting to know about how the law applies to bikes. But there are also a lot fewer people riding bikes than driving at this point, and represents a low number of total citations. The one moving violation I've ever received I got while riding a bike. Although I got it tossed out by the judge because in fact I was not violating the law by making a left turn, but the police officer was clueless of how the law applies to bicycling. Which is pretty common place in a police force that doesn't understand riding a bike them self or the details of how the law applies to bicycling.
lahope August 28, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Laws governing cyclists' behavior are enforced. I see cyclists running stop signs constantly. I also see lots of two and three abreast riding on San Vicente. I see cyclists riding on sidewalks and in crosswalks meant for pedestrians. I see cyclists chatting on cell phones while riding. On Ocean Ave Extension for example there is no room to pass a cyclist with 3 feet to spare, especially if a car is coming from the other direction. It is a nightmare.
Gary Kavanagh August 28, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I see drivers running stop signs constantly. I also see lots of cars driving two and three abreast on major streets making it hard to pass. I've seen a driver spin out at high speed and scrape across the sidewalk (true story, thankfully no one was walking there) or far more common, blocking sidewalks by over-parking driveways (against the law). I see driver chatting on cell phones while driving, some of whom have nearly killed me with their inattention. Sometimes the number of cars on streets are so packed in, there just is no room to pass without squeezing by in tight rows of fuming toxic gas. It is a nightmare.
Paul August 29, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Gary, I heartily agree that reckless drivers are rampant. I regularly witness distracted drivers on their cell-phones idly chatting away. And I wonder where the police are to witness this. I've also witnessed cars take a 'rolling stop' at posted stop signs, especially around the city college. And I wonder where the police are to witness this. However, I have to ask where you have witnessed "drivers ticket[ing] bicyclists for breaking the rules on a regular basis." Unless these "drivers" were officers of the law (police, sheriff, etc.), I have to wonder which members of the general public have the authority (let alone the nerve) to serve a ticket on a bicyclist for breaking the traffic laws. If you meant the police, I'm glad they're doing their job. But I have never seen them writing a ticket on a bicyclist yet. I remain hopeful that I will some day...
Paul August 29, 2012 at 12:36 AM
David, If a bicyclist operates their bicycle in a reckless manner, they present as great a risk to all users of the road. Motorists might be prompted into behavior that could endanger other motorists (or bicyclists) as the motorist attempts to avoid a collision with the oblivious or reckless bike rider. This danger is just as likely as when an unthinking pedestrian jay-walks into traffic. Whether the pedestrian is sober or under-the-influence or young-and-stupid or old-and-stupid, the danger remains apparent. Last, I also differ on your assertion that "motorists are on the roads by the grace or the non-motorized road users." I would assert that their authorization has been earned by the successful acquisition of the license to drive in a motorized vehicle granted by the state, not by mutual assent granted by "non-motorized road users."
Gary Kavanagh August 29, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Sorry I incorrectly wrote "drivers" where I meant "officers" in regards to ticketing. Officers who typically also happen to be drivers since police outside of a car is a rare sight these days. Though I have seen a few bike officers actually riding their bikes instead of standing next to them recently, which I am very happy to see. Without a perspective from what it's like on both sides, I don't think any officer can make a fair assessment of collisions that involve a car driver and a bike rider. And I can assure you bicyclists get tickets from officers, I get e-mails all the time as a blogger on bicycle topics from people who were surprised they could be ticketed on a bike, which they much can. Bike riders make up a smaller portion of street users at present, and the most popular routes to bike on tend to be the routes with lower volume of car traffic. Given those factors, plus the fact that officers out and about writing tickets is another rare sight, for any type of violation, it would not surprise me that most wouldn't have seen a bicyclist ticketed. But I have seen it first hand a number of times (and experienced it myself once, which was not a real violation but officer misunderstanding of law). And seeing something happen isn't what's most important, it's data, and if you look through it, it happens all the time.
Paul August 29, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Gary, I too have witnessed drivers making a 'rolling' stop through posted stop signs. I've also seen drivers cut it a little too close to get thru on the 'yellow' before the red signal appears. But while unnerving, I don't believe it's illegal to drive abreast of one another. I don't think it's collusive or a conspiracy as long as the posted speed limits are being met. However, I believe that it might be illegal to do so on the freeway if the left-most lane is occupied as this lane is supposed to be available as a passing lane. Again, I doubt if any officer would press the issue. Although I am uncertain if anybody can do this, but tenants of any residence can call the police to cite a car for obstructing a driveway. I even had the police two a car away (but this was at night when the idiot parked completely across my driveway because they were too stupid to notice that the driveway was there). I will keep my fingers crossed as you try to negotiate the road with inattentive drivers chat even though that law has been active for a while now. Unfortunately, most of the streets of LA are dimensioned to optimize for use by the car. Only recently have some cities begun to re-stripe to allow for communal use for cars and bikes. Most drivers do park and open their car doors without looking, but every bike rider should know this already and be cautious for it. Until the change is more universal, I guess that you'll have to choose your route to minimize gas fumes.
lahope August 29, 2012 at 03:30 AM
"squeezing by in tight rows of fuming toxic gas" @Gary Kavanaugh, oh snap! Except it won't be my fuming toxic gas you're breathing. I drive an EV :-)
SK August 30, 2012 at 04:34 AM
I will pass on your comment to my friend who, when legally crossing in a marked crosswalk was hit by a cyclist riding full speed who did not even try to stop, suffered three broken ribs, tooth loss and a split lip. But allow me to elaborate on my original post: with any type of car vs. non-car transportation, cars will prevail. My point is that I don't want to share the road with anyone who is behaving recklessly, as I don't want to hurt anyone. For all the very aware, very considerate, law-aiding auto drivers/cyclists/pedestrians, etc., kudos to all. Driving is not a gift of grace from anyone. It is earned, and although not perfectly, better regulated than any other form of transport, other than commercial operators. And for the record, I was not referring to "rolling" stops, which are less than one mile per hour. I am referring to cyclists who simply do no make any attempt to slow down if they think there are no cars approaching. I discussed this with my avid-cyclist friend, who explained that the reason he doesn't stop is the "It takes too much effort to start up again after a full stop." I wished him the best of luck.
SK August 30, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Also, regarding Gary's comment: "I get e-mails all the time as a blogger on bicycle topics from people who were surprised they could be ticketed on a bike, which they much can" is quite shocking to me. When at around age 10, I was allowed to start riding my bike in the street, my parents made sure that I knew the rules of the road and that I was responsible to obey them. It follows that if people are "surprised" they are in violation of rules of the road, then they never learned them in first place.
David Huntsman August 30, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Paul and SK, if you mean to compare the hazard (broken ribs) of a cyclist vs pedestrian collision to the result of a car vs pedestrian collision, you are comparing bee stings to shark attacks. Paul, every state's rules and regulations for motor vehicle operation on public roads is exactly the mutual assent of non-motorized road users. It's people who vote, people who suggest laws and people who sit in government in Sacramento and enact laws.
David Huntsman August 30, 2012 at 02:46 PM
lahope, Here is a brief explanation of the dynamics of San Vicente Blvd through Santa Monica: a cyclist no longer has an expectation of riding a bicycle in the dedicated (read: exclusive) bike lane on San Vicente without risking a collision with the joggers illegally using the bike lane. The joggers, running side-by-side, force cyclists to use the right travel lane. This puts the safe cyclist in the right shared lane, with cars. This is completely legal for cyclists and anticipated by Vehicle Code section 21208. The right shared lane is not wide enough for cyclists and motorists to share "side-by-side" (translation: overtaking motorists attempt to pass cyclists at high speed, rather than slowing to cyclists speeds and passing safely.) The safe cyclist then must do all he or she can to prevent the unsafe overtaking, including taking the entire right lane. In that case, what difference does it make if cyclists are two or more abreast? An overtaking motorist has to change lanes. And seriously, Ocean Avenue Extension? You need to go faster than a cyclist's pace for those few hundred yards? lahope, you might notice one common problem: parked cars. On both San Vicente Blvd and Ocean Avenue extension, an entire car's width of roadway (both ways on San Vicente!) is dedicated to motor vehicle parking. Tell me that isn't actually the source of the conflict over the 3 feet we are asking for here!
Evan August 30, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Many cyclists want separated bike lanes (cycle tracks), as seen here in Long Beach: http://la.streetsblog.org/2011/04/21/another-wonderful-long-beach-first-protected-bike-lanes/ I'd hope that the commenters here coming from a driver's perspective who think giving cyclists 3 feet of space while passing is impractical support safer bike facilities like these as well.
lahope August 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM
@Evan Yes, the Long Beach plan makes much more sense than the unenforcable three feet of space. Yesterday I watched a cyclist ride between two lanes of cars that were stopped for a light on 7th. He didn't have three feet of space on either side but he went ahead and rode right up the center.. I also saw a cyclist blow through a stop sign at California and 3rd. I honked at him as he crossed my path and he turned his head and gave me a dirty look. But I digress. The source of the problem as I see it is the unferreted development, especially by NMS Properties, that the Santa Monica city council is encouraging, . More people, more cars, more congestion, less safety. Maybe the Expo line will help, but it is too little too late. These develolpers need to be paying for safe bikeways so that cyclists and cars are not *sharing the road* which is not even adequate for the car load.
Paul August 30, 2012 at 06:10 PM
David, If you place a pedestrian (could be a 20 yr old collegian, a 150 lb octogenarian or a 4 foot pre-teen) and allow a 160 lb bicyclist riding along at a modest 15 mph to collide with the pedestrian, I don't believe that it will 'sting' or that the result will be too easy to shrug off as inconsequential. Someone will be seriously injured. The injuries could be minor or they might be severe (from cuts and bruises to dismemberment or, God forbid, death). Imagine if you were the father to a child who was struck by an inattentive bicyclist. Your world has now been upended by this action -- it would be specious and astounding if the bicyclist were to say, "it would have been a lot worse if your child were hit by a car." My point is that everyone has an obligation to do no harm. This requires vigilance by everyone from pedestrians to bicyclists to motorists. You cannot grant bicyclists a 'pass' simply because you assert that they present less of an obvious threat than cars. Last, it might be helpful if you were less poetic in your arguments. "Non-motorized road users" does not automatically equate to the general public, their duly elected representatives or the legislative body which establishes the lawful requirements which determine who is granted proper authorization to operate a motorized vehicle on public roads. At the very least, this is a subset of the public -- I would assert that a greater majority do use a motorized vehicle.
Paul August 30, 2012 at 06:53 PM
David, I agree that joggers should not be using the bicycling lane on San Vicente. It's safer and little easier on the feet to use the large islands of grassy area which run between opposing directions of traffic. I also support bicyclists encroaching into the right-most lane of traffic should the need arise to pass joggers or motorist exiting their vehicle. Motorists should be aware of either possibility for the biker, so there should be no argument opposing this. But then you extend the argument to allow for side-by-side riding by bicyclists since motorists would have to move to the left adjoining lane to pass anyway. What if any harm could this present? Bicyclists riding in single file are probably riding at a comfortable cruising speed and paying close attention to the road and the traffic. Those riding abreast of one another could be engaged in conversation and thus might slow down and be less attentive to road hazards (cars). Since bicyclists do not usually keep pace with cars traveling at 35-40 mph, they will begin to block and impede traffic flow. This is a frustration to most motorists and only serves to reinforce any resentments they might have towards bicyclists. This resentment is worsened when the adjoining lane is the opposing traffic lane on narrow streets. It is all so avoidable. (continued in next comment)
Paul August 30, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I remember once when I was following a biker on a two-way narrow road where there was just enough opposing traffic to make passing difficult to impossible. Cars were beginning to pile up behind me. To my surprise, the bicyclist noticed the situation, slowed to a stop, parked to the side and allowed all of us to pass him. Astoundingly brilliant and generous move! Biking can be a solitary endeavor. I can understand the need to reach out at times to your fellow biking traveler and share a conversation. However, your primary concern should always be to be responsible to everyone else that is on the road, not your need to mitigate boredom or loneliness. You don't need to provoke what could be an already frustrated driver in a hurry to get to whereever-the-hell they're headed.
Jenna Chandler (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I admittedly run in the bike lane on San Vicente because I'm afraid I'll twist my ankle running on the grass median—it's very bumpy with all of the tree roots, and when you're running long distances, it's easy to lose concentration. It's also better to run on asphalt than concrete. But I've deservedly gotten a tongue lashing many times from cyclists. I'm not sure what the solution is. Do y'all?
Paul August 30, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Jenna, I will admit that I had not considered the uneven, root-bound terrain of the grassy islands running along the median. I agree that a twisted ankle is painful and prevents your desire to get exercise and stay fit. While this may sound flippant, I do not intend it to be so, but you might change your route to one of the jogging paths along the beach or running along the wet sand near the waters edge. There are no cars or bikers on the sand, only people. I'm certain that you can find stretches of beach front that have a minimum number of people to avoid if that is your choice.
Jenna Chandler (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Hi Paul, not flippant at all. I do try to avoid it as much as possible, but some running groups use it when going distances of more than 10 miles, because San Vicente Boulevard has few traffic signals, a nice steady incline and lots of shade. It's one of the most popular running routes for a reason :) And on that note, signing off for now for a jog!
David Huntsman August 30, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Jenna, you do realize you are putting cyclists who have to leave the bike lane to pass you (including children) in danger of being run down by motorists -- don't you?
David Huntsman August 30, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Paul, I'm not extending an argument - I'm talking about Vehicle Code section 21202 which allows a cyclist to use the full lane when the right side of the road is impracticable to use. I get the feeling you aren't aware of that. Once you get it, you see that it doesn't matter what cyclists are doing in the lane when any cyclist has the right to the entire lane. If there is one cyclist rightfully in the lane, you gotta' go around. In the other lane. I get your concern for cyclists, but when you start attacking the fact that cyclists might take advantage of lane control and the legal "side-by-side" position preferred for road safety and have a sneaky chat, well, you're off in a place that isn't well supported and, sorry, just a bit patronizing. I might as well suggest that motorists do nothing but focus on "point A- point-B" when driving: no fiddling with or even listening to the radio, no talking on the phone, no chatting with the kids or the wife, no slowing to look at real estate and garage sale signs...
David Huntsman August 30, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Jenna, regarding the "solution" you are looking for, you might take a look at California Vehicle Code section 21966, which reads: "No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility." I don't do tongue-lashings, by the way, especially if young cyclists like my 10-year-old son is with me. Rather, I instruct him how to deal with runners in the bike lane just as if he was dealing with any other hazard that allows him the use of the shared lane. But it would be nice if he didn't have to leave the small protection of the bicycle lane on account of runners.
Sir Harrington August 30, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Due to multiple runner/cyclist confrontations, the LA Leggers no longer run north on San Vicente. As an individual, you also have the option of running in Palisades Park. Broadway to the totem pole and back is a three-mile loop with a nice steady incline and lots of shade. Better to loop four times for twelve miles and be safe than have an altercation with a cyclist.
David Huntsman August 30, 2012 at 09:18 PM
When I ran cross-country in high-school, we ran on the center island on San Vicente. There were a few who chose to run on the sidewalk because of the tree roots. This was 30 years ago. I'd imagine the roots have only gotten worse.

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