Give Me 3

California is getting closer to having a 3-foot passing law. The State Senate approved SB 910 by 27 to 9 on June 1. The next hurdle is the Assembly, where the bill will be heard by the Transportation Committee within the next few weeks. The deadline for approval is July 8.

Give Me 3

10 Responses to “Give Me 3”

  • B says:

    I’m sure this will be as useful as the Massachusetts law which fines drivers for opening a door in front of a cyclist, regardless of whether or not they hit them. I was doored, and the cop gave me a yeah-yeah-thanks-buddy routine when I told him about the law and asked that he cite the driver. He never did.

    Our texting law is a joke – it didn’t take long for people to figure out that cops aren’t enforcing it, and now everyone’s back to texting while driving, and especially texting while sitting in traffic or at a light.

    Laws don’t do any good if they’re not enforced, and right now, the only thing police care about enforcing: speeding. Not going over double-yellows, aggressive driving, running red lights, or any of a myriad of other existing laws. Even getting charges filed against a drive who runs down a cyclist is a challenge – they can flat-out admit negligent operation, run from the scene, try to hide evidence…and they’ll get off with barely a slap on the wrist for killing or maiming another person.

  • Alan says:


    Agreed; lack of enforcement is a big issue. If nothing else though, it’ll briefly bring attention to the issue and perhaps raise awareness among motorists. To be truly effective, it will require follow-up promotion/education and real enforcement.

  • John Ferguson says:

    I have a theory about why cops will write speeding tickets but won’t issue tickets for other moving violations on the books – Speeding is a quantitative violation with clear evidence that can be shown in court. That, and there’s a culture of acceptance that when the police caught you speeding you rarely challenge it. That leads to fewer court appearances. That leads to happier cops. They hate having to go to court to defend the tickets they write..

    Think about it from the cop’s perspective. I don’t know how police are evaluated but I imagine citations written and complaints lodged against the officer are a big part of it. Speeding offers a path to increasing the former while reducing the latter to a minimum. Easy money.. If an officer started writing a bunch of tickets for infrequently enforced violations, such as failure to signal, dangerous driving and talking without a handsfree device (all citeable violations in California), (s)he would likely have to spend a lot of time in court defending the charges (perhaps even on your day off!), and if the people you stop complain about you to your supervisor you’re less likely to be promoted. Much easier just to write speeding tickets all day long.

    I would argue that the traffic regulation enforcement system has incentives that are at odds with the stated goal of making the system safer for everyone. Speed has been used as a proxy for safety, but that assumption is not evidence based and doesn’t hold water if you look at it more closely. If you want to change behavior, you have to align the incentives not just for the driving and cycling public but for the police as well.

  • Micheal Blue says:

    It’s too sad discussions like this even take place: there should be enough intelligence to create separate bike paths in the first place. How many billions get wasted on silly things? How many miles of separate bike lines could be built for the billions?

  • Garth says:

    Well, John, I doubt we will ever see a “3 foot” trap! And given the statistics on when speeding tickets are issued, and all the stories about little towns setting up speed traps when they need more money, or deriving half their budgets from highway speeding tickets, there is definitely a monetary motivation at work. Add quotas and all the rest, and traffic enforcement starts looking less and less like an enforcement policy designed to increase the safety of the community.

    The thing that bothers me is how little the police seem to care about protecting cyclists. We are the more vulnerable road user, but the police do not seem to accept our presence, any more than most motorists, let alone want to protect us or encourage cycling by creating a safe environment.

    We have a 3 foot law in Illinois, and recently added criminal penalties to the statute, but a large percentage of motorists pass closer than that, and I would bet the majority are not even aware of the laws. I had a car pass me a few days ago, and just as he got by the passenger leaned his head and arms out of the window and started shouting at me to get off the road. It is a losing battle. Changing motorists’ behavior can only occur with either a change in infrastructure or a vast increase in the number of cyclists on the roads.

    The one time I complained about a motorist intentionally trying to run me off the road, to a cop who happened to be around the next corner, I was told he could do nothing for me, even when I gave him a partial plate number and cited him to the statute (which had just become effective at that point). And honestly, even if he had ticketed the guy, it would not have improved my commute one iota. Like I said, it is all about infrastructure and safety in numbers.

    Michael, I think the answer to your question is in Portland’s claim that its entire bike infrastructure cost the equivalent of 1 mile of urban freeway. That’s how exponentially more inefficient automobiles are.


  • Nate Briggs says:

    A great summary of the issue from Mr Ferguson.

    The cops decide what laws to enforce, and – in most municipalities – the path to Cop Success does not lie in writing tickets. No matter how many lives that might save.

    The payoff for writing tickets in SLC is to stay a patrolman for the rest of your career. On the other hand, if you routinely find infinitesimal amounts of controlled substances in various places, you’ll rise in rank as a serious “crime fighter”.

    Of course, the lack of enforcement cuts both ways. Scofflaw cyclists also have unlimited opportunities for mischief.

    … Nate (SLC)

  • Bernie says:

    In that video he says 3′ is a guideline but wouldn’t be the law, it would be up to the officer. No cop is going to bother to “enforce” that, and that suggests it’s up to the discretion of the car driver. If car drivers were using good judgment to begin with, we wouldn’t need a law. Wouldn’t we be better off with a good education & awareness campaign, rather than a useless law?

  • Pirate Velo says:

    Making it a law is a start. As many of you have pointed out enforcing it is all together a challenge. Where is does come into play, unfortunetly, is when an accident results in the death of a biker. If a driver hits a biker as a result of not following a 3′ law my guess is they will be charged in those cases. Thus the drive is at fault at this point and it is not a he-said she-said case.

  • Michael says:

    If it passes, it’ll be nice to be recognized in the books, and have this law as insurance. It’s not going to solve all our problems overnight, but that’s not what it is about. It should be just seen as what it is, a step forward in equality on the road.

  • John L. says:

    I realize how much more needs to be done to protect vulnerable road users and what a small step this is, but any law that recognizes cyclists as road users with rights is a step in the right direction, however small. Let’s work to get this law passed, and then keep working for better and more bike lanes and infrastructure.

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