Three Feet for Safety Law Goes Into Effect September 16

California’s long-awaited “Three Feet for Safety” law finally goes into effect on September 16. The law, championed by the California Bicycle Coalition, our advocates at the state level, is another step toward ensuring that people in our state are safe and comfortable when biking.

The law requires drivers to give at least three feet of clearance when passing someone on bike. If the street width doesn’t allow for that (as is often the case in San Francisco), the driver is required to slow down and only pass once it is safe to do so.

Here’s the actual law for AB 1371, the “Three Feet for Safety Act”:

(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.

(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.

See the full details of the law here.

In adopting the Three Foot law, California joins 24 other states with similar protections for people biking. Bicycling in California has increased 50% since 2000, according to the latest census data. Here in San Francisco, the number of people bicycling has increased 96% since just 2006. This new law is just one more way to ensure the growing bicycling community is safe on our streets, whether that is on rural roads or city streets.

What Does The Law Mean for San Francisco?

On streets that are wide enough, drivers must give people biking three feet before passing. Passing at less than three feet may result in a citation, up to $959 if a collision occurs. Because of Muni boarding islands and other infrastructure, many San Francisco streets are too narrow to implement the three-foot passing law. In cases like that, the second part of the law will be most pertinent: Drivers must slow down, give the person biking space and only pass when safe to do so.

The three-foot law is a key step toward making our streets safer for people biking. But it’s just a start. We know that in order to make San Francisco streets truly safe for people ages 8 to 80, we must invest in a network of protected bikeways. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition continues to work to Connect the City with 100 miles of protected bikeways so everyone from an 8-year-old child to her 80-year-old grandmother can pedal safely and comfortably around our city.

What’s Next?

The California Bicycle Coalition is doing extensive outreach to make sure people driving and biking know the new law. The SF Bicycle Coalition will continue to incorporate details of this law into all of our bicycle education classes and professional driver education programs, which now include all SF taxi drivers. You can spread the word by sharing it in your social media with #givemethree or getting a bumper sticker or window decal.

For more details on this law, see the California Bicycle Coalition’s extensive FAQ document. Want to know more about bicycle law? Take a free bicycle education class with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

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