New law won’t fix real problems: Three Feet for Safety Act will increase tension between motorists and cyclists

Celia Jimenez

On Sept. 16, the Three Feet for Safety Act became effective in California with the intention of providing safer roads for cyclists and creating a better interaction between drivers and cyclists. But will this measure actually work?

The number of states who’ve implicated similar three feet distance laws between car and cyclists has doubled since 2001, but the number of deaths by bicycle and motor accidents in the nation does not reflect the same trend.

Research from the Pedestrian and Bicycle information Center shows that in 2001, there were 732 fatal incidents, while in 2012 there were 726. This only shows a 0.82 percent decline in deaths. Similarly in 2012, the cases of cyclists injured increased by 2.08 percent and the number of deaths rose by 7.30 percent compared to the previous year.

The New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center analyzed the effectiveness of the law in the states where it has been implemented and research shows the law does very little to provide safety to cyclists for two reasons.

First, police do not enforce the law and unless you get hit by a car, it is difficult to prove if a driver passed you within the specified distance.

Section C of California’s 3-feet law is a license to increase traffic and tension on cyclists and motorists relationship.

The reason why is because it states that if a driver cannot safely pass a cyclist, they have to slow down and proceed only when it is safe. Suddenly slowing down to accommodate cyclists can potentially cause an accident.

The California’s Driver Handbook cautions drivers about the possibilities of conditioning if driving slower than permitted, suggesting you move to a slower lane and let the cars behind you pass.

Driving at a slower speed will also cause more traffic congestion as well, especially during busy hours, subsequently delaying people trying to arrive on time to their destinations. This can potentially increase driver’s stress and their existing animadversion towards cyclists.

Implementing a law is not always the best way to meet necessities and if integration is not working, separation should be advocated. New York City has implemented protected bike lanes, diminishing injuries to all street users by 35 percent on 8th St. and 58 percent on 9th Ave. respectively.

This urban design also provides collateral benefits such as increased sales, faster transportation services, more public spaces and events and even more promotion of bicycle transportation.

A large majority of the San Diego public would probably prefer an urban system that actually works and creates a better flow for all its inhabitants, rather than vague, band-aid law text that skips around the real issue at hand.