New CA Cyclist Buffer Law

Bike Laws in Sacramento

A new California law now requires drivers to allow 36 inches or three feet of space for all cyclists or face a citation and fine.

The new law, AB 1371, was authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, and has revised Vehicle Code Section 21760 to state that “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.” This will require drivers to slow down to a prudent speed and pass the cyclist with caution. By passing this new law, California joins 22 other states that already have similar laws aimed at protecting cyclists.

Not Everyone Is Happy With New Cycle Laws

While aimed at protecting cyclists, the new law has many worried that they may receive a citation. Critics of the new law have complained that the law could put drivers at risk of getting a ticket if they are unable to determine or unable to give a full three feet to a moving cyclist. However, Chad Hertzell of the CHP said officers will not be whipping out a yardstick to measure the room drivers give cyclists. Rather, they will be looking for drivers to be safe and courteous when on the road with cyclists, ensuring that everyone is safe. If a driver is clearly not being courteous to a cyclist, then that driver could be targeted with a citation. Hertzell explains that “if a driver is not giving due regard, and had the opportunity to give 3 feet, but just brushed by him, that driver can get cited…But if they are making a good faith effort, they are not going to have any problem from us.”

Those who do find themselves cited for breaking the law will be required to pay a fee. Initially the fee is $35, but that jumps to $238 once additional fees and court costs are included. If a driver injures a cyclist by failing to abide by the new law they could face a fine of $982 plus other legal issues.

Education Comes First

Sacramento police say their first priority is educating the public. Police spokesman Justin Brown stated that “I can see an officer issuing a ticket, but our main objective is to educate the public on increased safety awareness…If we observe a motorist, and see the distance is not correct, we may stop and educate the motorist about the law.” That does not necessarily mean that they will get a ticket.

It’s important to be cautious when riding a bicycle on the road. This new law is designed to protect bicycle riders, who make up a  significant group of those hurt on highways in California every year. If you were hurt by a driver while cycling, you should reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney to seek compensation for damages, including medical costs, pain and suffering and even loss of income. Our bicycle accident lawyers can help you build your case and ensure your rights are properly protected.