If you rear-ended a bicycle on the roads of Los Angeles or elsewhere in California, and the bicyclist accuses you of violating California Three Feet for Safety Act, you are probably thinking, “What the heck is this guy talking about?”
Firstly, the bicyclist may have a point. California Three Feet for Safety Act does exist, but it does not necessarily mean that you violated the law when your vehicle rear-ended the bicycle.
“Even though California Three Feet for Safety Act was enacted more than four years ago, many motorists in Los Angeles and all across California are not aware of its existence,” says our Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney from Compass Law Group, LLP.
What California Three Feet for Safety Act are all about
In essence, California Three Feet for Safety Act requires car drivers to give bicyclists three feet as they pass them on the road. Before the three-feet rule became a law in 2014, there had been no clearly specified safe passing distance between cars and bicycles.
But do you even know what’s three feet? Exactly. Last time we checked, motorists are not driving with a tape measure to determine the distance between their vehicle and a bicycle. Our bicycle accident attorney Los Angeles says, “A rule of thumb is if a biker can reach out his or her arm and touch your vehicle, there are less than three feet between your vehicle and the bicycle.”
Have you violated the three-feet law?
Under the 2014 law, a motorist must provide three feet of space between his or her vehicle and a bicycle when passing that bicycle on the road. If a driver cannot maintain three feet when passing a bicycle, he or she may be able to pull off another lawful maneuver: slowing down to a reasonable speed and only pass when doing so does not put the bicyclist at risk of colliding with the vehicle.
But when do California Three Feet for Safety Act apply in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the state? Our Los Angeles bicycle accident lawyer says that under the 2014 law:
- The three-feet rule applies regardless of whether there is a bike lane on the road;
- A car driver is considered to have violated the three-feet law only when a law enforcement officer witnessed the violation (typically, witnesses’ accounts or video recordings are not enough to prove the violation);
- Those who fail to maintain three feet between the vehicle and a bicycle when passing the bicycle face a $35 fine, or a $220 fine if there was a collision.
Bicyclists must comply with a plethora of laws, too
Even though California Three Feet for Safety Act is considered to be bicyclist-friendly, in no way does it mean that bicyclists are never at fault for bicycle accidents. In fact, our experienced bicycle accident attorney in Los Angeles reminds of other traffic laws that apply to bicyclists in California:
- Bicyclists have a legal duty to follow traffic rules and obey traffic signs like other vehicles on the road;
- Bicyclists must comply with their local and applicable laws (for example, bikers are allowed to ride on sidewalks in Los Angeles even though sidewalk riding is illegal in many other cities);
- Bicyclists can wear earphones or headphones while riding but only as long as one of their ears is open to traffic at all times;
- Although bicyclists are allowed to talk on their phones while riding, there is no excuse for distracted riding.