New Bicycle Buffer Law

A new state law requiring motorists to give bicycle riders a three-foot cushion when passing goes into effect October 1; violators face $35 fines, $220 if a collision takes place. The law acknowledges that in many instances, there’s not enough road space to give cyclists such space; in those instances motorists are required to pass at a safe speed and from “a safe distance.” The law was authored by Assemblymember Steven Bradford, a Democrat — and a cyclist — from Gardena. Bradford was moved by his own run-ins with cars while on the road. In 2006, Santa Barbara Assemblymember Pedro Nava introduced a similar bill after a construction truck killed Kendra Payne, a UCSB cyclist and triathlete, when on a training ride on Gilbraltar Road.

The new bill has generated pushback from some motorists angered by the scofflaw behavior of some cyclists. They have insisted cyclists be held to the same level of accountability as motorists and demanded that police issue more tickets. Sergeant Riley Harwood of the Santa Barbara Police Department said his agency doesn’t track many traffic offenses — running red lights and stop signs — according to vehicle, but he did report an increase in the number of citations issued to bike riders for riding on sidewalks and other vehicular specific transgressions. In 2013, city police issued 375 citations to cyclists: 52 for running red lights, 33 for running stop signs, and 213 for riding without a bike light.

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