Bikes and cars

In recent weeks, Street Smarts has published letters from people trying to understand the new Three Foot For Safety Law, as well as those seeking to educate the public about it. One common question was about the way drivers are supposed to interact with bikes on the county's two lane, windy mountain roads. The answer is and always has been: with patience. The law requires three feet of space to be between motor vehicles and cyclists when drivers go to pass. If that amount of space is not available, motorists must slow down and pass safely. Implemented in other states as well, the law is result of cyclist complaints that drivers were passing so close that bike riders where being struck by side view mirrors and other parts of the vehicle or their cargo, as well as pelted by road debris. It also aims to prevent more serious collisions that cause severe injuries and death. The message I gleaned from some of the letters I received from drivers is that there is fear the new law didn't make sense and perhaps gave cyclists too much power on narrow roads with double yellow lines in the center, making it illegal to pass. However, according to the California Vehicle Code, bicyclists must follow the same rules of the road that pertain to cars, meaning pull over to allow the vehicles stacked up behind them to pass. They also are required to ride as far to the right side of the road as practicable. Each day, thousands of people travel those two-lane roads. While there are no statistics regarding the number of cyclists who use those roads for commuting and recreational purposes, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation commission keeps copious notes. On Soquel-Old San Jose Road, where area residents wrote in to Street Smarts in search of more information about the law, there were an average of 8,739 motorists traveling daily on Soquel-Old San Jose Road north of Hilltop Road in July 2008, the last traffic count recorded. Just south of Summit Road, an average 4,735 drivers were tracked each day in May 2005. Soquel-Old San Jose Road is a gorgeous and peaceful alternative to taking Highway 17 to Santa Clara County. It's understandable why so many people use it but with high usage means an extra dose of patience is necessary, whether the person up ahead is a cyclist trying to get in a good workout or a driver meandering around each curve. However, if all road users followed traffic laws and displayed an iota of courtesy, this road, as well as all the others in the county, will be more pleasant to traverse. View more traffic count data for county roads at Learn more about the Give Me 3 law from the DMV at; CalBike at,; and by watching this YouTube video at, See also this webinar at
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