New California Law Gives Cyclists 3-Foot Buffer

California drivers next week will have to follow a new law when sharing the road with bicyclists.

The new law goes into effect on Tuesday, and calls for drivers to stay at least 3 feet away when passing bicyclists.

"If you're passing a person on a bike, you must give them at least 3 feet of space when passing them to ensure you are not buzzing by them or hit them with some part of your vehicle," said Kristin Smith of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Drivers must keep their distance from bicyclists until it is safe to pass.

"What we're trying to do in San Francisco is to get protected bikeways so you don't have to be interacting so much between people driving and people biking," Smith said.

The League of American Bicyclists report up to 40 percent of all fatal bike collisions are caused by unsafe passing. Those crashes usually take place when bicyclists get hit from behind.

"I've had definitely close calls with vehicles," said Althea Karwowski, who sees the law from two perspectives as both a a bicyclist and driver. "The scariest thing that happens to me is when I’m in a bike lane going through an intersection and a car after me doesn’t have their turn signal on, but they go to make a right hand turn and I fear for my life."

Motorists who are caught not giving bicyclist the mandatory 3 feet of space before passing may face a fine between $35 and $200. If a collision occurs, the fine could reach up to $1,000.

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