If you regularly walk or ride a bike in the Bay Area, chances are good that you have been frustrated by hazards posed by motor vehicles. Most U.S. roads were built with only motorized traffic in mind, which means that sidewalks, crosswalks and other pedestrian accommodations are often poorly designed and maintained. It’s no wonder that the rates of bicycle and pedestrian accidents are so high.
Thankfully, bicycle riders will soon have one more protection when sharing the road with cars and trucks – at least in theory. The “Three Feet for Safety” law goes into effect in mid-September, which means that drivers will need to observe a three-foot buffer zone whenever passing a bicyclist. Drivers who violate the law may be fined.
When a three-foot buffer is not possible, drivers need to slow down and wait for a safe opportunity to pass the bicyclist. That’s according to a news interview with a California Highway Patrol officer. The CHP has said that in 2012, approximately 150 bicyclists across California were killed in accidents with motor vehicles. The “ghost bike” memorials seen around the Bay Area are a chilling reminder of how quickly a life can be lost.
Like any traffic law, “Three Feet for Safety” needs to be observed, respected and enforced if it is to do any good. This means that drivers need to slow down, pay attention and scan the area around their vehicle for the presence of bicyclists. For their part, bicyclists need to obey applicable traffic laws and make sure that they are not taking unnecessary risks in the name of convenience.
The size and weight differential between bicycles and motorized vehicles is such that every interaction has the potential for loss of life. In order to prevent tragedy, it is up to all travelers to stay alert, follow the rules and share the road.
Source: ABC 7 Los Angeles, “CA Law Requires 3 Feet Buffer Between Drivers, Bicyclists,” Rob Hayes, Sept. 2, 2014