Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday rejected a legislation that would have required drivers to be at least three feet away when passing bicyclists in most cases and would have allowed drivers to cross solid yellow lines to pass if safe to do so.

Brown vetoed a similar bill last year.

While applauding the continuing effort by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, to improve bicycle safety, Brown said in his veto message that “crossing a double yellow line is an inherently dangerous act that increases the risk of head-on collisions. When a collision occurs, it will result in a lawsuit where the state is likely to be sued as a ‘deep pocket.’ By making it legal to cross a double yellow line, the bill weakens the state’s defense to these lawsuits.”

He said Caltrans had offered a way “to insulate the state from costly lawsuits” while keeping the three-foot buffer zone but “unfortunately” the bill’s author, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, wouldn’t amend the bill. Brown called on the bill’s sponsors, which included Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, to work “with my administration to resolve the liability problem.”

Brown didn’t elaborate on Caltrans’ plan, and Caltrans officials were unavailable for comment Friday evening.

The vetoed bill, Senate Bill 1464, said that if safety conditions didn’t allow for the three-foot clearance, drivers then would have to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed, taking into consideration the size and speed of their vehicle, traffic, weather and road conditions.

The base fine for a violation would have been $35 but with all of the fees and surcharges levied by courts at the Legislature’s direction, the total would be at least $233. If the driver hit and injured the bicyclist, the base fine would have been $220 with total fine at about $959, under the bill.

Brown rejected last year’s bill because he objected to a provision requiring drivers who couldn’t safely pass more than three feet away to slow to 15 mph. This year’s bill didn’t include that.

State law now prohibits drivers from crossing solid yellow lines unless they’re making a U-turn, turning left at an intersection or pulling into or out of a driveway. But it’s common for drivers now to cross the lines to pass bicyclists on rural roads across Sonoma County.

The California Bicycle Coalition says about 20 states have three-foot passing laws regarding bicyclists.


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  1. Amanda Kerr

    Hooray! What really needs to happen here is registration and insurance for the riders. They are immune and exempt and that is unfair to the vehicles and pedestrians they endanger! Once they are held accountable they will ride more courteously I suspect and we won’t have the road rage we’ve seen in the past. LOVE IT! No more riding in the middle of road or three abreast and expecting a vehicle to crawl behind them or make an unsafe move around them.

    September 28th, 2012 6:35 pm

  2. jon

    Governor Brown! You suck! I regret voting for you.

    September 28th, 2012 7:10 pm

  3. Chris from Santa Rosa

    Amanda… cyclists are not immune or exempt from liability for injuries or property damage they may cause. Furthermore, I’d appreciate an explanation as to how a bicycle endangers a motor vehicle.

    I encounter cyclists all the time when driving my car. I’m glad to see them and don’t mind having to slow down before it is safe to pass. And I’ve never had to wait more than a minute to pass safely, even on ridiculously narrow roads like Coleman Valley.

    A few moments’ inconvenience does *not* justify any level of road rage. I recommend a few moments of reflection to ponder the true source of your hostility.

    September 28th, 2012 7:25 pm

  4. BMW Rider

    I always try to give bicyclists plenty of clearance, but we don’t need any more laws or regulations. What we need is for law enforcement to enforce the existing traffic laws equally on bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers.

    September 28th, 2012 7:47 pm

  5. Toni

    Maybe they should stay in the bike line and not ride 2-3 wide or ride on the white line!

    September 28th, 2012 8:10 pm

  6. Karle

    If any law is to be passed, it needs to be to prevent riders from endngering motorists lives. They should not be able to ride on roads with no shoulder, as it gives motorists no option but to get into the oncoming lane to pass them. It is not always possible to just slow down and wait for a safe time to pass them.

    I personally am sick of riders acting like they own the roads and not doing anything to stay out of the way of motorist. They almost never come to a complete stop at stop signs or red lights, and oftentimes ride two people wide. As far as I am concerned they should start paying some kind of separate registration that will fund widening the roads to allow them a separate lane.

    September 28th, 2012 9:17 pm

  7. Roger

    @ Amanda – Are you so important that you can’t slow down and wait to pass cyclists on the road when it safe? Is your time more important than someone else? How would you feel if you hurt or maimed a cyclist because you are in a hurry to pass? Cyclists are not the cause of road rage any more than getting a license to drive. The cause of road rage is someone’s inability to control their temper while operating a motor vehicle (which becomes a deadly weapon when operated in a deliberately unsafe manner). What motorists need to do is realize that they need to slow down and act safely when approaching cyclists or pedestrians. No one is more important than the other but motorists are definitely more dangerous and therefore have greater responsibility to drive safely without endangering others.

    September 28th, 2012 9:22 pm

  8. Tacos

    Eh? These are the same ones that used to give me a hard time when I rode my skateboard by their businesses. Now they’re in spandex blocking my way to work for their recreational rides. Ironic?! Share the road!

    September 28th, 2012 11:37 pm

  9. Steve

    Karle is right on!

    September 28th, 2012 11:39 pm

  10. Sandra

    whats wrong with having a three foot passing distance? if anyone is in such a hurry to get somewhere, guess what, trying to hurry will only make you more late & cause problems for others especially if you cause an accident. I agree with another commenter that bike riders have caused problems as well. I’ve had bicyclist run into my vehicle & I’ve seen them jump curbs, cross against lights, not stop at 4-ways etc.I’ve seen drivers not care & turn right on red when a bike rider was right there trying to cross, I’ve seen drivers hug riders etc. The drivers should be punished when its right they be punished & accountable & the bike riders need to be punished & accountable when they’ve caused problems. This is a two way street-no pun intended. There needs to be more done for both sides of this issue not just getting after drivers. But starting with a wider passing is a good place to start. The gov is saying no until something happens to someone he knows or himself if he rides, then he’d decide it was a good idea. wink!

    September 28th, 2012 11:52 pm

  11. mike abel

    do drivers making a right hand turn on a red light have to stop at the first white line of the crosswalk …cause with all the stopped cars in the left lanes i can’t see if i need to come to a full stop …

    September 29th, 2012 12:18 am

  12. mike abel

    3 ft rule …some drivers can’t judge the width of there car in a parking lot with marked lines or the space needed to open the door safely

    September 29th, 2012 12:30 am

  13. Mark

    Uh, Karle? Riders “own the roads” exactly as much as drivers do. That’s the law. If they can’t ride a road with no shoulder…you can’t drive your car on one, either.

    The same thing is true of pedestrians. They have a right to walk on the roads, too.

    I agree they shouldn’t ride double-file. I agree they should obey traffic laws. But drivers should, too: and one of them is that they have to respect cyclists, and, if necessary, slow down until it is safe to pass them.

    September 29th, 2012 12:53 am

  14. samantha

    No one is exempt from driving safely. Cyclists ride often without caution or notice that they are on a ROAD. Personally, with my children in the car, i will NOT pass a cyclist by going over the line, nor will i slow to a dangerous speed to wait to pass. I will go. They will still have room to operate safely, if they choose to pay attention is up to them. Point is, both parties are responsible, and this law didn’t account for that so it was stricken down. And i appreciate that. As a parent and a safe driver, who has been hit by a cyclist before, yes hit, i was happy to see this bill not pass. One that creates some liability for both parties would be more effective, as the governor saw and tried to facilitate.

    September 29th, 2012 1:52 am

  15. Todd

    hahaha the law didnt pass. Watch your backside roadies.

    September 29th, 2012 7:02 am

  16. Skippy

    On the road I may have the same “rights” as a double-semi, but if I attempt to enforce those rights without the full knowledge and cooperation of the trucker, I die horribly.
    And that’s in my car!
    Arrogance around motor vehicles is stupidity, and Heinlein is correct when he states that stupidity is a capital crime with no appeals and summary punishment.
    Cyclists need to read more Isaac Newton and less Abbie Hoffman.

    September 29th, 2012 7:29 am

  17. TFitz

    Shippy, you improved my line,’physics and biology over advocacy and politics’.

    September 29th, 2012 8:15 am

  18. Mike O.

    When I am driving in my car, and I recognize that I won’t have enough time to slow down for a bicycle rider, I try to remind myself to SLOW down. I am driving too fast for the conditions of the road.
    There could be a drunk driver, dog, pedestrian, or a texting driver around the next corner.
    We need to pay attention while driving our cars, and be respectful to everyone on the road.

    September 29th, 2012 9:17 am

  19. Kyle

    This bill was 100% robbing peter to pay paul. What a joke trading one dangerous act for another even more dangerous act. How about a law that says bikes have to not exist within 3 feet of the earths atmosphere because they’re?

    September 29th, 2012 9:42 am

  20. Foster Brooks


    September 29th, 2012 10:01 am

  21. bradpipal

    Just as I reported..
    Tradesmen Unions said, “no way”…gravel haulers, hard rock, drill rigs, rubber tired/cranes, all require a road free of riders on self propelled bikes…
    No way am I able to drive into traffic or shut down when operating with 126,000 lbs. crane/drill rig trucks….
    Stupid to see bike riders, with no fall protection other than a helmet…

    September 29th, 2012 3:09 pm

  22. Ryan

    Amanda, Karle, bradpipal, bicycle riders have every right and every responsibilty out on the roads. Many of the roads in sonoma county dont have a shoulder with a white line and as such riders are forced to be in what you guys call the center of the road. As a driver you must yield until it is safe and then pass at a safe speed. It’s simply human decency to not ride a rider down with a two ton vehicle. If that is not enough initiative to drive safely around riders just look at the recent vehicle vs rider cases in sonoma county. You hit a rider and you go to jail. Many riders now ride with helmet or bike mounted camera and they are very effective at capturing vehicle make, model and plate numbers, so harassing or running down a rider on a rural road with not be an anonymous incident. If you hit a rider, your car will be towed, you will likely lose your license, be chared with assault with a deadly weapon, and possibly civilly charged. People who ride bikes are people who live in the same community as you guys. We are lawyers, doctors nurses and police officers. If you have something against bike riders maybe you should ask yourselves why. Do you dislike bike riders because we break traffic laws? Motorist break just as many laws. Do you dislike riders because they are spending their time engaging in a beautiful, enriching and fullfilling past-time? Think about your intentions and actions.

    September 29th, 2012 9:33 pm

  23. mp

    A key reason our streets are dangerous for riders is that multiple generations of motorists have been brought up to believe streets are their exclusive territory. This wasn’t always the case – prior to the advent of motorised transport, streets were largely the province of pedestrians at large and children at play. Motorists effectively took over by force of arms as streets became too dangerous for foot traffic.

    This is a disappointment, but cultural changes take a long time

    September 30th, 2012 9:26 am

  24. George

    I am sorrow all you drivers believe you have first right to the road – but you don’t. State laws in virtually all states mandate that bicyclists have the same rights and RESPONSIBILITIES as drivers. So if you do hit one of us, better keep driving and risk a “Leaving the scene of an accident” ticket. Of course if you get caught, you will pay. And pay. And pay.

    Cyclists shouldn’t run lights, should stop at all stop signs and shouldn’t ride 2 or more abreast. A lot of them don’t. Likewise, most drivers have forgotten what their turn signals are for and how to use them. And they speed, driving 70 on 40 MPH back roads. And they swerve into the bike lane while they are TEXTING, for God’s sake.

    It works both ways. When people in cars don’t behave responsibly they’ll get tickets. Bicyclists get tickets for running stops, and drivers get thrown in the slammer for hitting bicyclists. Relax, calm down and stop thinking your time is more important than my safety.

    October 1st, 2012 11:53 am

  25. John

    Wow, so much anger from folks like Amanda and Karle. I think you need to take a deep breath and relax. Such a propensity towards road rage is likely not good for you in the long run. Eventually you’ll annoy someone in a bigger car than you and then you’ll be on the receiving end of what you seem to want to dish out.

    October 1st, 2012 12:30 pm

  26. Wendy

    On the road, I am protected only by my reflexes and some very thin spandex when I am on a bike. I have only my own horsepower, and I have much less flexibility and ability to react than does a car. I have no disk brakes, no airbags, and no 2 tons of steel to protect me.

    I always keep to the right of the white line when there’s a bike lane in good repair. If there’s no lane, or there are road hazards, I may pass into the lane. But I only do it for a VERY good reason, as I’m risking my life when I do so…and I’ve fully internalized this fact because I have friends who have been seriously injured and even one who has died while riding a bicycle.

    I’m constantly seeing drivers cross that white line, taking turns without signaling,a nd doing other unpredictable maneuvers.

    All I’m asking is that we ALL follow the traffic laws. You respect my space, and I’ll respect yours.

    October 1st, 2012 12:41 pm

  27. Casey Mcvicars

    I was intentionally run off the road today by a motorist who hit sworn his side view mirror. I was able to stay upright and was riding with a county sherrif, so he was arrested and taken to jail. Wish I had the governors side on this?

    October 1st, 2012 6:55 pm

  28. Jeff

    There are a lot of terrible drivers on the roads. I see that more as a driver than a cyclist. I’d like to see us move away from the concept of driving as a right and make it a privilege.

    As a cyclist, I avoid a lot of roads due to the inherent danger which is usually due to width of the road or design of intersections – not speed in my experience.

    I see many cyclists giving all cyclists a bad name. But licensing them? To what purpose? License plates? Bureaucracy? Tickets and more burden on the courts? Are you going to give 10 year-old kids tickets? Or are you going to give kids a free pass and discriminate against adults?

    A trucker above complained about slowing down for a cyclist. I have to slow down much more often for trucks than cyclists when driving.

    October 2nd, 2012 2:05 pm

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