Coming soon: New bicycle safety law

CHICO, Calf. - A new California state law designed to cut down on bicycle accidents involving vehicles takes effect September 16.

Motorists will be required to maintain a three-foot buffer between themselves and bicyclists when they pass while traveling in the same direction.  If not enough space is available, the motorist must slow down and pass when it's safe.

The law is welcomed by many in Chico, where there are many bicycles on the road. That includes students at Chico State.  In the last year there have been a series of collisions between vehicles and bicycles, including incidents that killed Chico State Student Kristina Chesterman, and Butte College Student Janee Nickerson. 

Annalise Knight, whose sole means of transportation is her bicycle, isn't sure the law goes far enough.   "I think it's a start," she said. "But at least it gives a minimum distance compared to where it is now."

However, critics aren't convinced all drivers are capable of identifying a three-foot gap or understanding what's considered safe passage. 

Janine Rood of the Chico VELO Cycling Club likes the new law.  She has an easy trick to help motorists remember the three-foot buffer.  "If the car door were to open and hit the cyclist, then they're too close," Rood said.

"I think three feet is a good number.  I've been passed by less than a foot and that's very scary," she said.
Violators will face a $35 fine, as well as a $220 fine if a collision occurs.  The Department of Motor Vehicles needs to update its handbooks and educate drivers on the law.

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