A California law that is designed to keep bicyclists safe has been in effect for over a year, but most California drivers are unaware that the law exists. The law requires drivers to give cyclists a three-foot buffer in the roadway The law took effect in September of last year, but so far only six citations in California have been given to drivers who violated the law.
If a motorist is found to be in violation of the law, he or she will receive a $35 fine plus court costs. If a bicyclist is injured because of a violation of the law, the fine rises to $233 plus court costs. The law also clarified that bicyclists have the right to ride on California’s roads even if there is no designated bike lane. The law does not change other driving rules – for example, a car is still allowed to pass a slow-moving bicycle, but when passing the driver must ensure that there is a three-foot buffer.
Advocates associated with cycling safety organizations have expressed disappointment at the lack of enforcement of the law. They point out that bicyclists face significant safety issues every day across California. Advocates also claim that more law enforcement officials should be assigned to bike patrol so that they can gauge whether a three-foot buffer is being provided.
Critics of the law allege that it is difficult to enforce. They claim that it can be difficult to measure whether a vehicle is allowing a cyclist the requisite three-foot buffer simply by viewing from a distance. In some California cities, police agencies have been given ultrasound devices that are attached to police officers’ bicycles to measure the exact distance when a driver passes by.
When California passed the bicycle buffer law, it became the 24th state to require a three-foot bicycle buffer. Advocates of the law say that just because drivers are not aware the law exists does not mean it cannot still be effective. A recent study on bicycle buffer laws found that California is not the only state that has not been strict on enforcing the law – most states do not enforce the law unless, or until, a collision occurs.
Despite shortcomings in enforcing the law, there has been a slight decrease over the past two years in the number of accidents in California between bicycles and vehicles. Annually, there are over 1,500 collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles.
When a collision does occur between an automobile and a bicycle, the results are usually catastrophic for the bike rider. Bicycles lack the protections provided to automobile occupants, and even a minor collision can result in serious personal injuries, including broken bones, head injuries, cuts and scrapes, spinal cord damage, damage to the internal organs, and more.
San Francisco has long been a dangerous city for bicyclists. Unfortunately, San Francisco is one of the few cities in California where bicyclist deaths are on the rise. Experts put much of the blame on poorly designed streets, congestion, a lack of bicycle lanes, and distracted drivers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident in San Francisco, you may have legal options. You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries from the negligent party, including compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that any bicyclist injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence should seek compensation. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco bicycle accident attorney at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000 to learn more about your legal options or to schedule your free consultation.