Jerry, Jerry, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

09 Oct
Jerry, Jerry, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

How could you veto SB 910, the safe bicycle passing bill? The bill simply clarified to drivers how to pass safely with three clear instructions:

(1) Leave a buffer of three or more feet between your vehicle and the bike you’re passing.
(2) If the road has a double yellow center line, you can cross the center line to pass, provided there’s not oncoming traffic or other dangers.
(3) If you’re driving slower than 15 mph, you can pass closer than three feet.

What’s so wrong with this? It’s what 95% of drivers–the safe ones–have been doing forever. Even when it meant breaking the law, which currently doesn’t allow crossing the double yellow line, not even on rural two lane roads without turnouts.

Requiring a three foot buffer has been legislated in 20 other states, including my home state of Louisiana, with no ill effects reported. Sometimes illegal three foot passing is the only violation they can pin on drivers who hit cyclists from behind, like Jan Morgan, a severely injured triathlete in Mississippi. But that’s another sad story.

For me, what was worse than the veto was Governor Brown’s illogical reasoning: that drivers who slow down and wait until they can safely pass would cause rear end collisions. What?! Drivers slow down on roads all the time to maintain safety: for yellow lights, for cars slowing to turn right, for garbage trucks and postal vans. In fact, cars turning left often stop–in the left lane for christsakes–until the opposite traffic is clear, forcing all vehicles behind them to STOP, not just slow down.

I think the real reason he vetoed the bill was in deference to the California Highway Patrol, which opposed the bill, even though the bill included their recommended provision to allow crossing the double yellow center line. Maybe I should have said “CHP, CHP, why have you forsaken me?”

Why would a government agency dedicated to ensuring public safety on the roadways not be interested in ensuring safety for ALL roadway users? The only answer I can come up with is that like many drivers, the CHP considers cyclists on the roadway a nuisance and they secretly wish we would all go away. Maybe they’re hoping the unsafe drivers who buzz by us will scare us off the road, forever.

Someone please tell me this isn’t so, ’cause I’m losing faith.


Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure


2 responses to “Jerry, Jerry, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

  1. Brian

    October 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Even Singapore has a 3 foot (1 meter, actually) passing rule, which applies to all passing situations, supposedly. I support that.

    But I can’t say I’m thrilled about confusing what double yellow means. There are already too many vehicles on the wrong side of the road on most mountain roads. CalTrans signed off on that?

    I am disappointed that the chance to fix the passing zone has been lost, though.

  2. ladyfleur

    October 9, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Brian, you can cross over the double yellow to turn left onto driveways already, so it’s not a blanket do not cross already. The fact is that vehicles can pass bikes quicker than four wheeled vehicles, which is part of the justification for the exception. And consider a road like Hwy 84. It’s striped double yellow the whole way up the hill. Would it make sense for all vehicle traffic to go bike speed the whole way up the hill when there are plenty of safe places to pass a bike (but not necessarily a car).


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