Enacted in 2014, California’s “Three Feet Passing Law” states that motorists cannot pass a bicyclist unless there’s three feet of space separating the two vehicles. Drivers who are caught disobeying this law could face fines between $235 and $959.
While it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether a driver is exactly three feet away from a bicyclist, there’s one good rule of thumb everyone can follow. If a bicyclist could reach out and touch the motorist’s vehicle, then the driver is way too close.
Drivers who are on a road where it’s physically impossible to give three feet of clearance can still legally pass a bicyclist. In these circumstances, motorists must slow down behind the cyclist and only pass when they have a clear view of oncoming traffic. Motorists cannot, however, pass a cyclist if they have to cross over a double yellow centerline.
Motorists who fail to give three feet of clearance will be held accountable if a police officer observes them violating the new law. Anyone found guilty of disregarding the “Three Feet Passing Law” will get one point added to their driving record.
If a motorist passes very close to a bicyclist but doesn’t cause injury, s/he could face a fine of $235. Drivers who illegally pass a bicyclist and cause an injury could face over $950 in fines.
The Golden State isn’t the first in the nation to adopt a “Three Feet Passing Law.” Indeed, there are at least 23 states that now have specific rules on how much space motorists need to give to bicyclists when passing. Some states like New Mexico and Pennsylvania require over three feet of clearance, whereas others like New Hampshire determine clearance by how fast a driver is going.
The full text of the “Three Feet Passing Law,” which is officially known as Assembly Bill No. 1371, can be found on this website. To learn more about this law, you could watch this news report put together by The Los Angeles Times or watch this instructional video, both of which are on YouTube.