Cycling is huge in California, and the state often sets guidelines in terms of cyclist safety that other states eventually follow. Until recently, California required all motorists to maintain a distance of at least 3’ whenever they have to pass bicyclists. However, this rule changed at the beginning of 2023 in an effort to better protect cyclists traveling California’s roadways.
Per The Press Democrat, California’s governor approved Assembly Bill 1909 in September 2022, with the bill outlining new rules for drivers who share the road with bicycles. In 2020, 129 cyclists lost their lives in crashes across the state, while another 925 suffered serious injuries in bicycle wrecks.
What the rule changed
Instead of leaving at least 3’ of space when passing a cyclist, state laws now require California motorists to change lanes to avoid the cyclist whenever possible. That way, there is more of a buffer in the event that a motorist makes an error that might otherwise result in a cyclist injury or fatality. State officials hope that, by changing this rule, cyclists might feel more confident
What happens when drivers fail to comply
Penalties for failing to change lanes for cyclists when it is possible vary by county. However, most offenders are going to face fines that exceed about $238 for a first-time offense. If their failure to move leads to a cyclist injury, that driver may have to pay substantially more in fines.
Some bicycle advocates believe that while the rule change is a good one in theory, how effective it proves to be depends on how much authorities enforce it.