BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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          Date of Hearing:   June 25, 2012

                               Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair
                   SB 1464 (Lowenthal) - As Amended:  June 20, 2012

           SENATE VOTE  :   27-6
          SUBJECT  :   Bicycles: passing distance.

           SUMMARY  :   Sets requirements for safe passing of bicyclists by 
          motor vehicles.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

          1)Authorizes drivers on a two-lane highway to drive to the left 
            of double solid yellow or double solid white lines or double 
            parallel lines, one of which is broken, to pass a bicyclist 
            proceeding in the same direction as long as there is clear 
            visibility of oncoming traffic and there is sufficient passing 

          2)Establishes the "Three Feet for Safety Act" that requires:

             a)   A driver overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in 
               the same direction on a highway to do so at a safe distance 
               that does not interfere with the safe operation of the 

             b)   A driver to provide three feet distance between the 
               vehicle and the bicycle or its operator when passing; and,

             c)   A driver to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed when 
               passing a bicyclist if the driver is unable to provide the 
               minimum three-foot passing distance due to traffic or 
               roadway conditions.

          3)Makes failure to comply with the "Three Feet for Safety Act" 
            an infraction punishable by a base fine of $35.

          4)Requires a $220 fine to be imposed on the driver of the motor 
            vehicle who is found to be in violation of the "Three Feet for 
            Safety Act" that a collision occurs between a motor vehicle 
            and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the bicyclist.

          5)Makes related, clarifying changes.


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           EXISTING LAW 

          1)Provides that a person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all 
            rights and is subject to all laws applicable to the driver of 
            a vehicle.

          2)Requires a bicyclist riding on a roadway at a speed less than 
            the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction to 
            ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of 
            the roadway except:

               a)     When overtaking and passing another bicycle or 
                 vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

               b)     When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or 
                 into a private road or driveway;

               c)     When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that 
                 make it unsafe to ride along the right-hand curb or edge; 

               d)     When approaching a place where a right turn is 

          3)Generally prohibits a driver from driving to the left of 
            double parallel solid white or yellow lines.

          4)Defines a substandard lane width as a lane that is too narrow 
            for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side 
            within the lane.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown.

           COMMENTS  :   This bill is substantially similar to SB 910, 
          (Lowenthal, 2011) that was passed by the Legislature but vetoed 
          by the Governor.  SB 910 set the requirement that drivers 
          provide a three-foot passing distance when overtaking and 
          passing a bicyclist and established fines and penalties for 
          failure to abide by these requirements.  The bill also included 
          the provision that if the three-foot passing distance could not 
          be provided, vehicles were required to slow to a speed of 15 
          miles per hour (mph) in order to complete the passing maneuver.  
          In his veto message, the Governor noted that while the bill 
          offered clear improvements to the law, he acknowledged concerns 
          raised by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) 


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          and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) that the slow passing 
          speed could increase rear-end collisions and create traffic 
          backups.  The Governor encouraged the author work with the 
          proponents and opponents  of the bill to resolve these issues.  
          SB 1464 represents the product of these negotiations between the 

          In years past, streets were designed primarily for the ease and 
          movement of motor vehicles, with little regard of other modes of 
          transportation such as pedestrians and bicyclists.  In 2008, the 
          Legislature passed the California Complete Streets Act that, in 
          part, required roadways to be designed to safely accommodate all 
          users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, 
          children, older people, and disabled people, as well as 

          By introducing this legislation, the author intends to make 
          streets safer and more user-friendly for bicyclists by removing 
          ambiguity in current law regarding a motor vehicle's 
          responsibility when passing a bicycle.  The author notes 
          bicyclists often face dangerous conditions on California's 
          streets and roads due to motorists passing too closely.  When 
          this happens, even the slightest movement by the motorist or 
          bicyclist can result in accidents wherein the bicyclist often 
          suffers catastrophic injuries or death.  

          To reduce accidents that result from motor vehicles passing 
          bicyclists too closely, this bill would require motorists to 
          pass bicyclists with three feet or more of space between the 
          vehicle and the bicyclist where possible.  Motorists would be 
          authorized cross a solid double yellow or double white line, 
          when safe to do so, to accommodate meeting the three-foot 
          passing distance requirement.  When unable to cross a solid 
          double yellow white line or provide the minimum three-foot 
          passing distance due to traffic or roadway condition, motorists 
          would be required to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed when 

          According to the author, 17 states now have a three-foot bicycle 
          passing law including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, 
          Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, 
          Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, 
          Utah, and Wisconsin.  


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          Writing in support of this bill, the co-sponsor, the Office of 
          City of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, notes that the 
          bill would increase roadway safety, bring clarity to existing 
          law, and make bicyclists feel safer.  By accomplishing this, the 
          bill would make the City of Los Angeles a safer place to ride a 
          bicycle.  The Auto Club of Southern California, who opposed a 
          similar bill introduced by the author last year (SB 910, 2011), 
          are now in support of the legislation and note that the bill, 
          along with adequate enforcement and effective education efforts, 
          will help to achieve safer streets and highways.

           Recent legislation  : SB 910, (Lowenthal, 2011), would have 
          established a minimum three-foot passing distance and required 
          vehicles to slow to 15 mph when passing a bicyclist with less 
          than three feet of passing distance. The bill was vetoed by the 

          AB 60 (Nava) of 2008, would have required drivers to pass 
          bicyclists with a minimum clearance of three feet, a violation 
          of which would have been an infraction punishable by a $250 
          fine.  In addition, AB 60 would have made it a misdemeanor or 
          felony if the person operating the motor vehicle in violation of 
          the above requirement caused great bodily harm to the bicycle 
          operator.  That bill died in the Assembly Transportation 

          AB 1941 (Nava) of 2006, would have prohibited a vehicle from 
          driving in a designated two-way left-turn lane, for purposes of 
          overtaking and passing a bicycle or merging into adjacent lanes 
          of travel.  In addition, AB 1941 would have required motor 
          vehicle drivers to leave a minimum three foot clearance when 
          passing a bicyclist with violations assessed with base fine of 
          $250.  In addition, AB 1941 would have made it a felony or a 
          misdemeanor, upon conviction, for a person driving a motor 
          vehicle to cause great bodily injury or death to the bicyclist.  
          That bill failed passage in the Assembly Transportation 


          California Bicycle Coalition (co-sponsor)
          Mayor Villaraigosa and the City of Los Angeles (co-sponsor)
          Butte Bicycle Coalition


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          Automobile Club of Southern California
          Ryan Snyder Associates
          San Louis Obispo Bicycle Club
          Sierra Club California
          Local Government Commission
          50 California Bicycle Clubs and Advocacy Groups
          460 Individuals
          1 Individual

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Victoria Alvarez / TRANS. / (916) 319-