A new California law takes effect this month stating that drivers stay at least 3 feet away from bicycles when passing or face a $35 fine. $220 if a collision occurs. Electric bike riders are included.
Cyclists have historically had the right to legally occupy a full lane on California roads. They are required to follow the same traffic laws as cars, including stopping at stop signs and red lights.
California traffic law has never guaranteed motorists a right to pass whenever or wherever they want but the new law adds more specific requirements. Until now, California drivers were required to pass bicycles at “a safe distance,” but the law did not specify what that meant. Now it means at least three feet.
Under the new law, if traffic is too heavy to change lanes — or if other conditions make a three-foot buffer impossible — drivers must slow to a “reasonable and prudent” speed and wait to pass until it is safe to pass the cyclist.
This law does not apply to cyclists passing vehicles. It is still ok to pull up along side a car at traffic lights. The law is only relevant to motorists passing people on bikes from behind.
Visit the California Bicycle Coalition for more details about the 3 Feet Law.