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Bill requires drivers to give bicyclists at least 3 feet of clearance

On Monday, the California Senate approved a bill that will require that drivers give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing them from behind.

Senate Bill AB1371, authored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford of Gardena, was approved by lawmakers on a 31-7 vote. Known as the Three Feet for Safety Act, the legislation, if passed, will require that drivers passing a bicyclist going in the same direction give the bicyclist at least three feet of clearance. If a motorist cannot leave at least three feet of space between the driver and cyclist due to road conditions, the driver must slow to a "a reasonable and prudent speed" and pass only if doing so would not endanger the bicyclist's safety.

Existing law in California simply tells drivers to pass at a "safe distance," but the law does not say what passing distance is actually safe. California is one of 32 states that have "safe distance" laws.

Many bicyclists in California call any passing-from-behind collision a "Jerry Brown," in honor of Governor Jerry Brown's vetoes of two prior attempts to pass a three foot passing law in California. Only Brown and Governor Rick Perry of Texas have vetoed safe passing laws submitted to them.

AB1371 will return to the state Assembly for a final vote.

Passing-from-behind collisions are the leading cause of bicyclist fatalities in California.