Education, courtesy key to ‘Three Feet for Safety Act’

Editor's note: Today's Street Smarts comes from Amelia Conlen, Director of People Power of Santa Cruz County, a nonprofit that promotes bicycling in Santa Cruz County through advocacy, education and community building. Many people who ride bikes know the frightening feeling of being passed too closely by a fast-moving car. As of September 16th, a new California law will be in place that aims to give cyclists three feet of space when vehicles pass. AB 1371, the Three Feet for Safety Act, creates fines for drivers who pass with less than three feet of clearance, and steeper fines if unsafe passing causes a collision that injures the cyclist. You can help by telling friends and family about the new law and, most of all, by being courteous on the road whether you’re on four wheels or two. When you’re in your car and three feet of space is not available, the law requires you to slow down and wait until it is safe to pass. This is especially important on the rural roads of Santa Cruz County, many of which are heavily used by cyclists and full of blind corners. Slowing down and thinking about how to pass safely is the best way to protect everyone on the road. When you’re on your bike and it’s safe to do so, it’s polite to move to the right when a driver is waiting to pass. Help give cyclists the good name we deserve by following the rules and riding predictably. The Three Feet for Safety Act sets a valuable legal precedent in cases where unsafe passing results in an injury for the cyclist – strangely enough, there is currently no law against this. If an incident occurs when a law enforcement officer is not around, witnesses can report it to local law enforcement by recording the place, time, vehicle make and model, as well as its license plate number. The ultimate goal of the new law is to make our roads safer for cyclists, so that more people feel comfortable riding bikes for transportation and recreation. Bicycling brings many benefits to our community, from reduced traffic to increased tourist dollars. Education will be key to the success of the new law, and People Power is hosting a press event at 10 a.m. Sept. 16th in the Santa Cruz City Hall courtyard. Santa Cruz Vice-Mayor Don Lane, Capitola AAA business manager Katy Michelson and local law enforcement will discuss what the law means locally. Stop by to pick up an “I Give 3 Feet” bumper sticker for your car or reflective “Give me 3 Feet” sticker for your bike, as well as get more information for cyclists and drivers.
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