Do You Support the 3-Foot Passing Rule?

A bill has passed the state Senate requiring automobiles to pass no closer than three feet to bicyclists. Now it goes to a vote in the state Assembly on Friday, Aug. 24. What do you think? Take our poll and tell us in the comments.

A bill making its way through the state Legislature proposes to make it a legal requirement for automobiles to give bicyclists a minimum clearance of three feet when passing.

You can read more about the bill in this announcement from the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, which supports the bill.

SB 1464 has passed the state Senate and is up for a vote by the Assembly on Friday, Aug. 24. How would you vote if it were up to you?

Tell us in the comments how you feel about the bill and whether you think it will make streets in Marin and throughout California safer for both bicyclists and drivers.

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

John Ferguson August 27, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I don't know if they'd use it but this sort of thing is exactly why my #1 transportation infrastructure improvement for southern Marin is rebuilding and opening the Alto tunnel between Mill Valley and Corte Madera for pedestrians and bikes. Much like the Cal Park Hill tunnel in San Rafael (which I and many others use every day, thank you very much..) it would connect parts of Marin that are currently poorly served by the existing road infrastructure, especially where bikes are concerned. The volume of bike traffic headed north from the Mill Valley multi use path is not going down, it's only increasing year over year so we need to figure out a better way of getting cyclists safely north to Corte Madera and points beyond.
djconnel August 27, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Cyclists risk delaying a motorist. I don't defend this in every case, although any traffic risks delaying other traffic, and cyclists are as valid as any other traffic. However, to respond with actions which risk maiming and death, not just delay, is totally disproportionate. Imagine if I opened fire on demonstrators in the sidewalk because they blocked my path. It's no different to do what you admit to be a dangerous pass which could lead to an unavoidable collision because you don't like the way riders are behaving. And as to Ricardo's claimed risk of a 20 minute delay: that's totally absurd. I've climbed many hills in the Bay area and few in Marin even take that long to climb from bottom to top for even slow riders (Fairfax-Bolinas Road the only one I can think of right now). I've yet to encounter a single example where a driver was delayed more than a minute (which can seem like a long time when you're driving a car), and on such climbs the riders always become strung out due to differing levels of fitness. I very much question whether his patience in this specific example exceeded even 30 seconds.
John Ferguson August 27, 2012 at 08:47 PM
How many times have you been behind a slower driver who fails to yield? Even when there are clearly marked pull out spots and the signs all say 'Please let faster traffic through'? I'd count it in the hundreds, just in Marin county, just in the last 10 years that I've lived here. Should slow vehicles yield to faster traffic? Absolutely. Is it the law? Apparently. Is it ever enforced for any vehicles? Never. Stop holding cyclists to a higher standard when it's not applied to motor vehicles in any substantial way currently. We are slower traffic up hills, but we're frequently faster going down them. Does that mean that I expect cars to pull over for me when I'm behind them going down a hill? No, that wouldn't be reasonable to expect. Sometimes people pull over, and I'm always appreciative and wave but I certainly don't expect it. I just back off and go down slower than I might if the car wasn't there, and I don't trip about it..
C Ross August 27, 2012 at 09:02 PM
What I "don't like" is how some cyclists disregard both safety and common courtesy, in addition to breaking laws, with an entitled "I am bike rider, so I am God" (i.e., I am better than you, no matter what) attitude. If course, not every cyclist is like this, but enough -- like the one that not only almost hit me in a crosswalk, but swore at me because I hesitated (I had a knee injury at the time), or the one who hit my dog on the sidewalk, or the Safe Routes to School Bicycle Safety instructor who not only knocked my son off his own bike but yelled and screamed at him for getting in "her" way after she zoomed through the stop sign in front of our (Corner) house. I'm not advocating motorists do things impatiently out of anger, either. But blaming only motorists (sorry, but some of us CAN'T ride bikes) for rude, irresponsible, unsafe and aggressive behavior of cyclists who are supposed to be sharing roads, is not the way to go. I've said it before, and perhaps I should say it again a different way: Cyclists need to ride single file on any road with cars present, preferably in a bike lane, or on the shoulder, and if there is a car behind them on a narrow road, or 3 or more cars trying to pass, they should be required to ride at least 3 feet from said cars, or better yet, to pull over and let the cars pass.
Cliff Jacobs August 27, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Thank you Alpha. I am all for responsible driving and sharing the road on the part of motor vehicles AND cyclists. It is a two way street (pun intended). Anyway that this is spun, the cyclist does not have to share in the responsibilty. Is this just another revenue generating tool for local law enforcement to fill the city coffers? After all, this law if passed will probably have very little impact on the way people already drive their cars; and virtually no impact on how cyclists drive their cycles. It will give cyclists yet another way to file a complaint about a car driver that they feel got too close to them. Good judgement, common courtesy both ways, and caution are the solutions here, and not another law.
Nanette Brichetto August 27, 2012 at 10:11 PM
WOW, no shortage of opinions, and you know what they say about opinions, "they're like @$$Holes, everyone has one." Meanwhile, back to reality, the Police don't enforce most of the laws we have. For example, there are numerous laws displayed on signs at the parks in Novato. On occasion, the Police have claimed those laws are "too ambiguous for them to enforce." So, how are they going to enforce a three foot distance between moving vehicles, without an accurate means of measurement and documentation? Maybe the cyclist would have to be wearing a helmet cam, because I'm sure you're all wearing helmets, right? Besides, when has there ever been a cop around when you need one? As the famous quote goes, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." So, I'd suggest to both drivers and cyclists, Please Be Careful - Be Safe - Be Courteous. We really don't need more laws for that, it is simple common sense and common courtesy. As much as slowing down is annoying, no one really wants to scrape a cyclist from their tire treads.
djconnel August 28, 2012 at 12:06 AM
The bill passed the Assembly today, 50-16, with only (AFAIK) Republican opposition. It's now up to Brown to sign it.
Rico August 28, 2012 at 01:00 AM
I have not seen the language of this new law, an until I do I really can't say much about it, besides, it has not been signed into law yet. Still, I don't think it will make any difference in the way I ride or operate my vehicles. If I have to cross the double yellow line to safely pass a bicyclist, I will, and have been doing it for decades. The key is, look before you do it, and if it is not safe to do, then wait until it is safe. Part of the problem is some motorists are too much in a heavy hurry, and some road cyclists a terrible riders and don't realize the dangers that they are causing for themselves and for motorists. I one worked for an Australian fellow on his housebat at gate 6. He had some cool road bikes, and we started talking about them. He boasted to me that he caused a head on collision on Paradise Dr. between 2 cars ON PURPOSE, HE WAS PROUD OF WHAT HE DID ! The thing is, don't let anybody get you so uptight that you do something stupid in traffic. Road rage kills ! This is laid back Marin (or it used to be) so chill out and slow down and wait. Like I said before, I have never caused a vehicle accident, and I won't let some stupid cyclist or motorist get my goat and get me in an accident, I want to preserve myself, fellow beings and also most importantly to preserve my spotless driving record.
Rico August 28, 2012 at 01:08 AM
WOW, a few typos, once, not one, houseboat, not housebat, are, not a. Part of the problem is that it is not possible to proof read posts on this site because some of the lines are missing when scanning before posting. I have mentioned this before, nobody is perfect, so I was wondering if there was a way to improve this scanning problem on the Patch. Mahalo.
Bill McGee August 28, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Ricardo - really? You suggest the MCBC has a history of doctoring photos for political gain and as example you break out your famous “tunnel width conspiracy story”. Your “gotcha” web link you provided is a page posted in June of 2002 by the MCBC announcing the grant money already awarded to reconstruct the Cal Park tunnel. Among the text of over 500 words on the page is one sentence that says the tunnel is 40-feet wide. It was posted over six years prior to the Measure Q (SMART train) vote, and despite the trivial nature of the error, you point to this as part of a deliberate lie and cover-up to fool the voters. Really? It is trivial because the tunnel width is sufficient for the path and train to fit together exactly as it was proposed and designed. Ricardo’s insistence that MCBC deliberately lied about the width of the tunnel as some sort of scheme to fool the voters, and that a cover-up existed simply defies logic. So Ricardo, you started this exchange by accusing the MCBC of providing the Patch with doctored photos of Highway 1. Did you check out the street view on Google maps as I suggested? I am wondering if MCBC hacked their way into Google and also photo-shopped the street view since it clearly shows green grass instead of a shoulder. By the way, the same condition occurs in more than one location on Highway 1 through Tam Valley. Well at least we agree on the practice of common sense and safety when passing cyclists
BJL August 28, 2012 at 05:52 AM
When I drive the "back roads" to Stinson or the Cheese Factory - I always give a quick short honk before over taking a cyclist... is that acceptable? my family says, don't do that you scare them..... so bike riders - do you like a little beep or is it bad?
djconnel August 28, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Typically it's not necessary, since cars make so much noise there's no problem hearing them coming. If the cyclists pull over when there's sufficient line of sight then they heard you. If there's not any line of sight, they may even move into the lane to discourage dangerous pass attempts until a following straight. I never signal for drivers to pass since only they are in a position to judge if they have enough distance to pass given their projected speed. But if you think the cyclists may not see you, a very short honk, the shorter the better, is okay, but be wary a longer honk will be perceived as aggressive and will be counter-productive. Then pass smoothly with enough speed to get by but not so much you'll potentially lose control or be unable to react to unforeseen circumstances. Gunning the engine and skidding out in a neck-snapping acceleration is the wrong idea...
Rico August 28, 2012 at 03:45 PM
BJL, I think that giving a short tap of the horn is a good idea. I have learned to tap the horn in a way that it is so short, it never gets up to full volume. But, I admit, I hardly ever use the horn at all , only to give a friendly 2 taps when someone does something considerate when driving and to say thank you. There are many things that we as motorists and cyclists can do to make our driving and riding experience safer and more fun. One thing that I do is, if I am driving on a back road and see a car approach from my rear at a speed faster than I want to go at the time, I find the nearest place to pull over and let them pass, (I hate tailgaters) whether they are cars or bicyclists. Some bicyclists like to tailgate extremely close so they can catch the wind vortex, but that is an extremely dangerous thing to do, and very aggressive and annoying. And if a cyclist is sharing the road going uphill, it is illegal for them to impede the safe speed of traffic, the cyclists should also use courtesy and either pull over or stop and let traffic by. I think it is wrong for a cyclist to move over further into a lane on purpose to discourage letting traffic flow at speed. To me , that is a very selfish and dangerous act, and if they do it enough, they will most likely cause an accident and they would be the ones to get hurt the most. When riding on trails, I have a bell that I ring when I come upon hikers from the rear. Cyclists and everyone else can coexist peacefully.
Rico August 28, 2012 at 04:57 PM
One very important thing that I forgot to mention is something that I have seen road cyclists do. That is if there is more than one of them, the first one to hear a car approaching from behind calls out "car". That way the rest of them can move over to protect themselves from being hit. Granted, not all road bikers do this, but the smart, considerate ones do. And mountain bikers approaching hikers from behind, if they don't have a bell they can call out "bike(s) behind you". Most everybody cares about their health and the safety of others, only a few bad apples can spoil it for the rest of us
C Ross August 28, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, the correct response isn't bells and shouts of "bike" when you come across people WALKING. You get off your bike, say, "Pardon or Excuse me, please", and walk your bike around until safely past them.
Rico August 28, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Cindy, Obviously you don't ride a mountain bike anywhere. It's not that easy to stop going uphill and get started again, nor is it necessary at all. And besides, nobody would ever do what you suggest, but it is a good thought. Keep in mind that riding on trails , the hills are much steeper than any roads, there is less room for error, and the tight turns and sometimes fine dirt on the path make it dangerous to stop sometimes. Check out the Dias Ridge trail and you will see exactly what I mean.
djconnel August 28, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Where passing with a 3-foot margin is impossible, the law (I'm assuming it gets signed into law) allows cars to pass with less as long as it is done safely including consideration for a broad range of factors. But the 3-foot margin is not absolute. The primary effect is that by allowing cars to cross the double yellow to pass cyclists, it enables cars to pass with a larger gap where previously, at least formally, it was disallowed. But on a single-lane road no such option exists.
C Ross August 28, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Ricardo, I used to be a mountain biker, so yes, I DO know what you're talking about. But, I think you just made my point far better than I could! Far too many cyclists have the same arrogant, entitled, discourteous, holier-than-thou attitude that you do. Yep, everyone else has to cater to you, because it's too inconvenient to slow down or stop for anyone else who might be in your way.
Dick Steinbach August 28, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I think we all need to get a life and hang this up. Kinda like current politics. I'm right you're wrong. It has gotten us nowhere for 30 years. Same with the bike-car thingee. Caution-aweness-patience-thoughtfulness-forgiveness-and please no more rules.
Magoo August 29, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Brown is going to veto it just the the same bill that came to his desk last year. Way to go Governor. You got it ritght.
Kathy Mcleod September 01, 2012 at 08:21 PM
The picture is not fake. I took it after Claire Deipenbrock was sideswiped and then run over by a car. I wanted to show how little room there is here. The 3 foot law is a MUST especially now that there is no longer set aside funding for bike lanes. The state's drivers ed classes need to include this information and it should be a question on the license test. What seems obvious to most of us is confusing to many, especially for drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol or new and young drivers. Falling asleep at the wheel can no longer be an excuse for killing a cyclists. Texting while driving? Too bad if you aren't looking where you are going and you happen to run into a cyclist. There should be no excuses for hitting or harassing a cyclist who is following the rules of the road and minding there own business and that is why we need this law. Education takes the guess work out and the only way for this situation to make the road safe is by making it a law for giving 3 feet. Cycling's growth has created new situations that require civil and lawful behavior from all users of the road.
Rico September 02, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Kathy, I only said that I think the photo was doctored because the MCBC was caught doing it in the past, I did not say it was fake, but I find it unusual that a slide was not cleaned up and allowed to stay and grow grass on it. Did Claire get sideswiped at that location (and where is it anyway ?), or did you just go out and find a slide ? And about no funding for bike lanes ? I think that there was plenty of funding for bike lanes with the efforts of the lobbyists like the MCBS. What are the places that you think new bike lanes should be funded ? If there is a slide that you know about that is on the shoulder of a road, you should call the agency responsible for that slide, be it the county, city or Caltrans, and they will scoop it up with the loader. Yes, I agree, there are new users of bicycles, and some need an education about sharing the road and preserving themselves to live on to have an enjoyable experience. How about a new class offered called "cyclist education" ? Would you attend the classes ?
Bill McGee September 02, 2012 at 07:28 AM
Ricardo – saying that a photo was doctored and calling it fake is the same thing. So now you are claiming that this is a pattern of deception practiced by the MCBC. You realize this is a fairly serious charge to level against the MCBC. Why do you persist with this nonsense? You know you could have saved yourself a lot of embarrassment if you had taken my suggestion and used the satellite view on Google maps. You would have learned that the condition shown in the Patch photo exists at more than one location along Highway 1. I think you just could not resist breaking out your tunnel width conspiracy story once again. You have repeatedly stated that MCBC purposely lied about the width of the Cal Park Tunnel in order to win votes for SMART. Besides your lack of citations to support this allegation, you have failed to explain how lying about the width of the tunnel could have possibly swayed votes for SMART. You also fail to explain to us why anybody (besides you) cared about the measurement of the tunnel width beyond knowing that the train and a path would fit and be able to operate together within the tunnel. The answer is simple – voters knew the tunnel would support a path and train at the same time, period.
Kathy Mcleod September 02, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I have posted more pictures to this article with explanations about where the location is, Bill is right. Take a look if you want to understand further about why the need for a 3 foot law. I contract with MCBC to teach bicycling classes. I am a League Cycling Instructor. Traffic violation tickets are given to cyclists all the time for not stopping. To reduce the fine they can opt to take a cycling class. People are learning how to ride with traffic. I also teach children bicycling after school at elementary schools in Marin. This law is needed because it will save lives. Since most people give 3 feet anyway it shouldn't be such a problem to ask that everyone do the same. As for the funding. Yes, there has been funding but over the next six to nine years it will be much harder to find. Google Transportation Enhancement funding or the League of American Bicyclists and learn about it. Shoreline needs class ll bike lanes connecting to the Almonte Bike lanes. Until then people need to give three feet.
Rico September 02, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Hi Kathy, Thank you for all the work you do to educate bicyclists, and for explaining it to me. I did not know that there was a deferral to bicycle safety school because I have never had an accident or a ticket while driving or cycling. And I agree about Shoreline through Tam Junction. I have installed many bike lanes here in Marin, all they are is a 4 foot wide strip of pavement with a 6 inch solid white line, the bicycle symbol and the legend "BIKE LANE" stenciled on the pavement. I don't know for sure, but I think Shoreline could accommodate a bike lane between Tennessee Valley Rd. and Almonte Blvd. Also, they are making improvements at Tennessee Valley Rd. with a new bridge for bikes/pedestrians on the north side replacing the old bridge across the street, and they are going to signalize that intersection. Also, they are going to signalize the intersection of Flamingo and Shoreline soon, they are working on it right now. And Bill M., I was talking about the obviously doctored photos that appeared on the MCBC website back in 2008 that showed a train right next to a bike lane, the artists rendering was on the same page. Those 3 items were put up before the lawsuit was filed by SMART to change the language of the ballot because they said it was misleading. My point is that the MCBC misled the voters and though you may not think the SMART deal was big, many people do. The MCBC made a false claim, and it seriously damaged their bicycle lobbying organization.
Rico September 02, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Kathy has a great suggestion about a new bike lane added to Hwy. 1 in Tam Junction. I would like to correct what I said about the new bridge, it would be more like the southwest side of Hwy. 1, the old non-ADA compliant bridge is across the street. But I have another suggestion, and I don't know if it is in the works or not. That would be to install a bike/pedestrian lane from Tennessee Valley Rd. all the way to the Fireside Apartments in Manzanita. That project was built in location that is at present totally boxed in by heavy traffic, and the only way for the residents now to use a bike or walk to Tam Junction is to go way down by the Park and Ride to cross the 101 offramp to access the multi use path. What I think should be done is make a lane on Hwy.1 on the southwest side to serve the low income residents of the Fireside Apts..After all, it was supposed to be a bike/pedestrian friendly development, and right now, it is anything but. This may involve some excavation of the hillside, and most likely a drainage and retaining wall to widen Hwy. 1 on that side, and will cost us a considerable amount of money, but it is necessary for the safety of the new residents of Manzanita, as there has never been any residential housing in that area. It seems like the politicians and developers of the Fireside never even considered pedestrian or bike access, just "gitter done, and worry about the details later".
Rico September 03, 2012 at 01:30 AM
After seeing the addition of the photos and description of where they were taken, I know more now. I drive through there often, and I noticed that the other side of the road has plenty of room for pedestrians and cyclists all the way from Flamingo to Maple. I know that the law says that bikes should ride in the direction of traffic, but given the minimal clearance in that location, I think that it should be allowed to ride on the side that has the safe clearance like in the photo, even if going opposing traffic. Once again, it is common sense, I certainly would never ride on the north side in that location. I don't know why anyone would. I doubt the Sheriff would give a cyclist for being safe. But I admit, after Maple all the way to Hwy. 128 in Mendocino, there are many places that are not wide enough for a bike lane on either side. So what to do ? Widen Hwy 1 all the way to Leggit where it meets 101 ? Now that will cost some serious money, and environmentalists will surely moan. There was a serious accident a few years ago at W. California and Hwy. 1, a doctor on a bicycle crossed the double yellow line and hit a motorist. Why this happened was never announced publicly, but the good doctor is now a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. The lesson is, if people want to enjoy riding bicycles on Hwy.1, keep your wits about you, and watch out out for motorists. Don't ride like you own the highway, don't attempt any crazy passes, and lookout for number 1 (yourself)
Bill McGee September 03, 2012 at 07:11 AM
Ricardo – it is funny that you bring up the lawsuit filed by SMART because it does not support your theory in any way. In fact it sheds light on the ridiculous nature of your premise. In 2008 the anti-SMART folks were hurting because they got caught lying on their official ballot argument sheet which they submitted for the voter pamphlet. SMART sued to have the false stuff stricken which really ticked off the anti-train folks. If your ‘tunnel width conspiracy story’ had been any sort of real issue, the anti-SMART people would have pounced on it while defending themselves in court against their own lies. It never came up! In fact it has never been mentioned as a question or an issue in the hundreds of news articles published back then. Your accusations (if ever taken seriously) could be damaging to the credibility and reputation of an organization like MCBC. All of this is relevant because you questioned the integrity and credibility of MCBC and whether they “doctored” photos in order to influence the public. We can have fun with this back and forth game but people and an organization can be damaged by your anonymously submitted allegations. Continued next post…
Bill McGee September 03, 2012 at 07:17 AM
It was about 2007 when you first broke out with your charges in the IJ/Topix comment section. You proclaimed that the tunnel was too narrow to fit both the train and the bike path. As time went by and the tunnel opened, the IJ switched to Facebook, your tunnel width conspiracy theory faded…until you revived it this week by questioning the credibility of the photos in this Patch story. I owed this background info to the readers who got caught reading your unsubstantiated allegations. I know you will probably run crying to the editor again claiming I am picking on you. To avoid my ‘picking on you’, stick to factual content. You will find it is easier to defend and you will actually be able to find links to data which will support your argument. Cheers.
Kathy Mcleod September 04, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Wrong way riding isn't working. Anyone and everyone professional knows this. It should never be promoted where there are cross streets entering the road. It is irresponsible. Bike lanes on a main road through a community is all that is needed, not the entire stretch of Hwy 1. The 3 foot law will help the rest of the way.


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