SB 910 made it through the California State Assembly yesterday. The bill would require motorists to give cyclists 3 feet when passing from behind. While the bill will need to go back to the State Senate tomorrow to approve some technical changes it is fully expected that it will end up on the Governor’s desk for signature.
While passage of the law should give cyclists in California reason to celebrate it doesn’t mean we should all abandon caution, or our helmets, and ride as if we have safety bubble around us. The fact is that we still live in a car centric nation and a culture that puts a greater value on quick and effortless travel than it does on the safety of those few of us who would, for whatever reason, pedal our commute.
Take, for example, this Letter to the Editor that I ran across in The Bakersfield Californian:
Robert Price’s Aug. 28 column, “Tweaking our too-snug car-bike interface,” was written, I believe, from the view of a cyclist. I believe Price is a frequent cyclist on the streets of Bakersfield. The 3-foot buffer for a cyclist is a great idea. However, there are dangers for all involved.
…To give the bikers an extra 3 feet means the automobile driver will need to move over to the left a few feet. Problem there is drivers in the next lane frequently cannot see the biker and wonder why in the world that “idiot” is moving over into his or her lane or driving so blasted slow. It’s a problem. I don’t know if SB 910 will solve the problem. I know if I were a cyclist, I’d rather ride on the sidewalk and dodge 170-pound pedestrians than on the street and dodge 2-ton automobiles.
Common sense is not all that common. Why not the sidewalk?
The author of this letter makes a careful effort not to be overtly anti-cyclist, but her suggestion that we cyclists be relegated to the sidewalk simply moves the safety problem out of her way. Her logic is that a 3-foot passing law is ok, but that it creates a “danger” for drivers because they might have to slow down when “that ‘idiot’” moves into his or her lane to pass a cyclist. To avoid the danger of having to use the brake pedal, the suggestion is that bikes, mine is usually moving at around 20 mph, negotiate the sidewalks they’d be expected to share with “170-pound pedestrians.” I’m not sure what she thinks is going to happen when a cyclist moving at 20 mph hits one of those pedestrians but, you know, “common sense is not all that common.”
I’ll take the 3-feet, thank you.