Buffer For Safety

bicycle-slips
Cruising / Santa Ana closed down about three miles of Main Street for one day to promote walking and cycling. / Daniel Lim / el Don
Cruising / Santa Ana closed down about three miles of Main Street for one day to promote walking and cycling. / Daniel Lim / el Don
Motorists would pay $35 to $220 for driving within three feet of bike riders

By Patrick Bird and Emilio Rodriguez

A month after the “buffer zone” law went into effect last month in California, many drivers remain unaware of the new law.

Assembly Bill 1371, the Three Feet for Safety Act, requires drivers to give cyclists a three-foot buffer on all public roads. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was injured in a 2010 traffic collision while cycling, sponsored the bill. So far 14 bicyclists have been killed in Orange County, according to BikeinLA.com.

Pete Distefano, an avid cyclist from San Juan Capistrano, supports the new law, but hasn’t noticed any difference on his morning rides since it went into effect last month. Distefano suspects that most drivers are not aware of California’s new buffer law.

While some drivers understand the new law, many find it confusing. George Kirby, a homeowner in Silverado Canyon, said he doesn’t know when he is allowed to pass a bicyclist when driving home through the narrow Orange County canyon. Kirby worries that if there isn’t enough space on the road to give a buffer he will have to follow slowly behind cyclists his entire drive home.

Drivers who violate the new law face a $35 fine. Penalties rise to $220 if a collision occurs. The prospect of a $35 fine concerns Santa Ana College student Juan Mendoza, who thinks that bikers will use the law to be more aggressive on the road.

California is one of 33 states with similar buffer laws. Wisconsin first passed a similar law in 1973.

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BICYCLE LAW AT A GLANCE
Zone: Bicylists have been granted a three-foot buffer zone on public roads.
Fines: Drivers face $35 in fines for getting close to cyclists. Collisions increase that to $220.
Accidents: About 5,000 were killed or injured in Los Angeles County in 2012.
Nation: The state joins 32 others including Wisconsin, which first enacted the law in 1973.

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