The bill is a good idea (there does need to be much more room between bikes and cars) but it appears to ignore the reality of the size of the existing roads, which preclude a three foot buffer.
Wider berth for bicyclists sought to cut road deaths
By Jim Sanders - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PST Monday, December 18, 2006
A Santa Barbara assemblyman is fighting to change state law -- by 36 inches.
Democrat Pedro Nava, in memory of a 21-year-old bicyclist struck and killed by a trailer truck on a narrow Santa Barbara road, is pushing for a 3-foot buffer zone for bicycles that are passed by cars or other motor vehicles.
"It's from your nose to the end of your fingertip," Nava said. "It's an easy distance to remember. And I think it's the least we can do for bicycle safety."
Violators would be subject to base fines of $250, rising to about $875 once local fees are tacked on. Motorists could be charged criminally if a bicyclist were killed or seriously injured.
Nava is pushing his measure, Assembly Bill 60, in honor of Kendra Chiota Payne, a triathlete for the University of California, Santa Barbara, who died in a morning training run last January.
Richard Payne, Kendra's father, applauds Nava's proposal but says nobody knows whether the collision that killed Kendra would have been avoided if AB 60 had been in effect.
"I'm not saying it would have saved her life, I'm saying that it could save future lives in terms of raising awareness and consciousness," said Payne, of San Francisco.
"I think (Kendra) certainly would be happy to see that other people were benefiting from an action taken because of her death."
Statewide, bicycle collisions killed an average of 123 people and injured 11,101 annually from 2000 to 2005, according to the California Highway Patrol, which does not keep tabs on how many crashes stemmed from an unsafe pass.
Current California law does not specify a minimum clearance but says motorists must pass to the left at a "safe distance without interfering with the safe operation" of a bicycle.
Opponents argue AB 60 would create unintended consequences in a state stretching hundreds of miles, with roads generally 11 or 12 feet wide, not counting shoulders or parking slots.
"I think the objective is admirable," said Assemblyman Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. "But I just don't think our roads are wide enough to accommodate what they're trying to do."