Testing the 3' passing law

Beginning next month, California law will require that cars stay at least three feet away from cyclists when passing on the roads.

I attached this driveway reflector to the basket of my bike with some zip ties. I chose this flexible plastic stick with reflector because it was 3 feet long and it should be visible, but it should also not kill me if a car decides to drive right through it. [...]

I felt safer because of this extra 3-foot forced space. I was tucked right up against the line of parked cars.

So he's saying "I felt safer" but he's also saying "I was in the door zone the whole time".

Most traffic lanes are about 10-feet wide. If you have 3 feet of space on your left, and, ideally, at least 3 feet of space on your right in order to avoid getting doored, plus probably at least around 18 inches for you and your bike to exist, you end up with at 7.5 feet. Let's call it 8 feet. That's about how wide the lanes are in San Francisco.

If people are actually going to respect and enforce this law it'll change the way we get around in dense urban areas. Either bikes will have to act like cars, or we'll have to get full bike lanes everywhere.

The only way to have 3' on the left and no door-zone on the right is to take the entire lane all the time.

The embarrassment I felt while cruising around the city with a stick attached to my my front basket was worth it: I didn't get clipped by a car once. Let's just hope it won't come down to cyclists having to ride around with 3-foot sticks on their bikes.

The same effect could probably be observed by biking while wearing a clown suit.

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14 Responses:

  1. Owen says:

    Now I'm envisioning someone riding around with a full pneumatic carousel calliope organ blaring on their bike. Maybe that would help.

  2. A strange side effect from the extra 3 feet: I found myself taking the lane more. I couldn’t slip past lines of cars stopped at lights like I usually would, so I was forced to suck it up and wait for the traffic light like the rest of the (wider) traffic.

    As, some would argue, you should. Although slipping up the side (or white-lining on a motorcycle) seems like it should be fine, so long as bikes respect other traffic laws (like, say, stop signs, red lights, and "no turn on red").

    • jwz says:

      The "some" who would argue that are "some" who wish the traffic laws were something other than what they actually are.

      Passive voice is among the lowest rhetorical tricks.

      • Hey, easy there. I wasn't actually casting myself in that passive voice, and I don't think that actually makes sense in most cities, given the constraints of the road bed.

        As it happens, I don't own a bicycle currently (because I travel out of town for work 100% of the time at the moment), but I also don't own a car (but I am in a rented one every week). I do walk a lot. Soon, I'll be back to working from home most of the time, and I will be going back to biking for trips too long to walk reasonably, for which public transit doesn't make sense (too short to justify 2 subway tokens, at odds with scheduling, whatever), and not inherently needing an automobile to transport goods (for which, Zip Car).

        The second sentence is my personal opinion, based on having nearly been run over as a pedestrian crossing with the light by PHL bike messengers. I think that it is dangerous to bike riders and to pedestrians when bikes don't obey stop signs/lights, but I also think there are a lot of times when sitting at a red light is obviously stupid: at certain times of the night, even in major cities, a long red light should obviously be treated as if it were a stop sign (both by bikes and automobiles).

        I think that having a full lane explicitly dedicated to bikes is a better answer than bike lanes conveniently in the Dooring Zone, but it has its own problems (eg, buses; one of the few "Ha ha... oh, no wait, that's true" moments in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYeYgiHBdwQ).

        In Philly, we've got a bunch of abandoned trolley track in the middle of one-way city streets, and the city hasn't shown any interest in putting trolleys back on the rails in place of bus routes (despite the fact that the catenary is even still there, and they repeatedly dig out and repave roads around the rails, retaining them). If they're never going to switch back from diesel buses to trolleys powered of the mains, which I'd prefer (pollution, fossil fuels, etc), it might be nice to see those be dedicated bike lanes (in the same direction as automotive traffic), which wouldn't give a full ~10 ft lane width, but would give the ~6.5 ft suggested by that article. SF doesn't have that problem: MUNI's actually using those railbeds. But that just makes figuring out the right place to put the bikes harder.

    • Jeremy Leader says:

      You may not be aware that in California, "lane sharing" (what you call "slipping up the side" or "white-lining") is not illegal, at least for motorcycles.

  3. Jef Poskanzer says:

    I was thinking of doing this except instead of reflectors, steel spikes.

  4. LafinJack says:

    A friend of mine had something similar that was like a metal koosh ball to scrape as much paint off the offender as possible.

  5. The same effect could probably be observed by biking while wearing a clown suit.

    The old logo for the UK's CTC Stop SMIDSY campaign was a cyclist dressed as a bear with the quote "What do I have to do to get you to see me?"

  6. Some Q & A about California's new Three Foot Passing Law, which goes into effect on Tuesday the 16th.

    Q. Where is the three feet measured from? The centerline of the bicycle?
    A. It's from any part of the bicycle or rider to any part of the motor vehicle. So for example, from my elbow to your side view mirror.

    Q. What if there's not enough room to pass with three feet of space?
    A. Wait until there is.

    Q. WHAT? You want me to WAIT? A few SECONDS??
    A. Yes.

    Q. Can I at least throw a tantrum while I wait?
    A. If you like.

    Q. Does it mean bicycles must also stay three feet away from cars?
    A. No, it only applies to motor vehicles passing bicycles. Bikes can still lane-split.

    Q. That doesn't sound very fair.
    A. Tough.

    Q. What's the fine?
    A. It's Thirty Five Dollars. Thirty Five Big Ones. Thirty Five Dollaroonies. Oh and if you actually hit a cyclist and cause an injury, the fine goes up to $220!

    Q. Hey, does that mean I can now hit a bicyclist, pay $220, and get away with it? That sounds like kind of a good deal!
    A. ....Um....

  7. gryazi says:

    Has anyone proposed putting parking on the left side [only] of one-way streets, thus reducing the odds of a door prize somewhat? Or do y'all generally line up both sides of one-ways in SF anyway?

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