Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3-Foot Law A Step Forward, But...

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that the State Assembly just passed a three-foot-passing law. (The law has already gained the approval of the Senate.) These laws are the overwhelming standard around the country, and adding one to our vehicle code is a definite improvement. We shouldn't celebrate yet, of course, as Governor Brown vetoed a similar law recently (under heavy pressure from AAA), but this one seems to have been re-written specifically to appease Mr. Brown, so with any luck all will proceed smoothly.

My question is, does anyone actually think this is going to help?

There are many laws on the books today that are intended to protect cyclists. For example, CVC 21200 empowers us to take an entire lane of traffic when safety requires it. That doesn't keep every cyclist I talk to from having a dozen stories about times that they've taken the lane, only to be honked at, shouted at, or passed far too close for comfort. Laws are also on the books making it a crime to block the bicycle lane, but take a cycle through most neighborhoods with bike lanes on trash day and tell me that they make a difference.

Of course, there are plenty of traffic laws on the books that get routinely ignored-- speed limits, laws requiring full stops at stop signs, even (by some) seatbelt and drunk-driving laws. But at least most people on the roads are aware of these laws, as evidenced by the way the freeways slow to a crawl within view of a Highway Patrol car. I am convinced that most drivers have no idea what the law is as it pertains to bicycles-- and, indeed, that they believe that the law is the opposite of what is actually written down, as shown by constant entreaties to "get on the sidewalk" (in contravention of RMC 10.64.330).

I would normally suggest that enforcement is the answer here, but, alas, I have seen several incidents that suggest that our local police are as ignorant of bicycle law as the general driving public.

So, while I applaud the passage of the three-foot-passing law, I don't hold out much hope for it actually *doing* anything to help us out on the roads.

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