Despite strong support in the State Senate and Assembly, and advocate letter writing campaigns, Governor Jerry Brown returned the three foot passing bill, unsigned, to the Senate on Friday afternoon. Citing concerns that a portion of the bill, which calls for passing a cyclist at no more than 15 miles per hour if it is not possible to leave three feet of room, might create a “long line of cars behind the cyclist,” the Governor asked the Senate and proponents of the bill to come back with an “improved” version next year.
The Governor's comments make it clear that he feels it is more important for autos to be able to quickly make it to their destination than for cyclists to be able to ride on safe roads. He writes that “On streets with speed limits of 35 or 40mph, slowing to 15mph to pass a bicycle could cause rear end collisions.” Apparently, the Governor believes that, lacking a safe distance at which to pass a cyclist, motorists should keep up their speed, lest their sudden deceleration so surprise the cars behind them that they cause a pile up. Though this situation seems highly unlikely, wouldn't a couple of fender-benders be better than dead cyclists?
At 15 miles per hour, less than ten percent of cyclist-motorist collisions are fatal. At 45 miles per hour, the speed at which Governor Brown would like to keep traffic moving past a bicycle without even a three-foot buffer, over 80 percent of such collisions are fatal.
The Governor's letter is attached. This was a very unfortunate loss for California cyclists, and even worse for those in the community who would like to venture out more often on a bike, but just don't feel it's safe enough. Thanks to all of you who wrote letters in support of the bill and to those of you who helped amend and refine the bill to make it stronger. Next year, we'll keep working together, with Senator Lowenthal, and with our friends at the California Bicycle Coalition to get a bill pushed through that gives cyclists the chance to ride the roads with a little elbow room.