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how does bicycle "3 Feet For Safety" law work?

Original post made by parent, Gunn High School, on Sep 16, 2014

California's "3 Feet For Safety" law that requires car drivers to pass bicyclists by a minimum of 3 feet goes into effect today. Does anyone know how this law really works? Media reports are woefully short on details. In particular, I have 3 questions:

1. Does the law still apply if the bicyclist is stopped? For example, if she is waiting at an intersection for a red light to change or for traffic to clear, can I pass by less than 3 feet to make a right turn?

2. Does the law still apply if the bicyclist is riding outside a bike lane, eg to avoid double parked cars or open car doors?

3. Does the law still apply if the bicyclist is signaling a left turn and merging all the way across the street? Do I have to allow at least 3 feet on both her left and right?

Thank you for any practical insight about how this law is supposed to work.

Comments (5)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2014 at 8:45 am

The other side of this law is that bicycles must stop and let cars pass if they are holding up several cars. Most bike riders do not know how many cars they are holding up. Driving along Page Mill and other roads up in the hills there are many bike riders who hold up traffic as they climb the hills. They never seem to be aware of how many cars they are holding up and I am very wary to believe that they will stop and let cars pass.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

@ Resident

Under the vehicle code, the cyclist responsibility is to let accumulated cars pass where there's a turnout. There's no responsibility for bikes to move to the shoulder or wait in driveways for cars to pass.



21656. On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. As used in this section a slow-moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.


1 person likes this
Posted by number 1
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2014 at 9:04 pm

answer to number 1.

you can never legally pass a bike on the left side to make a right turn. If the bike is waiting at the light, you must merge in behind them to turn right. This is why some bikes take the right lane at intersections to allow cars to pass on the right and turn right on red. This illegal right on red pass bike on left is a common mistake made by drivers.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

"or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed."

Anonymous - The above sounds to me like it could actually be a driveway, not just a turnout designated by law.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm

@Hmmm. Could be bikes can pull into driveways. Certainly as a matter of courtesy. I'd still be reluctant. You never know if that's when the driveway-owner's pit bull will decide to show you where the invisible fence is buried.

Point is you can't be required to go somewhere you don't necessarily have a right to go. No idea, but I'd be surprised to learn I have a responsibility and right to ride on driveways that owners can't prevent.


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