Fifteen states have settled on 3 feet as the motorist’s minimum legal distance for safely passing cyclists. Gary Brustin, a California cycling attorney, is a huge proponent of the rule, saying it gives drivers the clear, workable guideline they need. “The unsafe, too-close pass easily turns into a rear-end accident, the number one cause of cycling fatalities we see here,” he says. He adds that if your car is brushing past cyclists with only a foot to spare, the slightest leftward move by the cyclist can mean a collision. While Brustin lobbied unsuccessfully for a 3-foot rule in his state, a bipartisan effort helped lead governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign California’s Complete Streets Act in 2008, requiring local governments and planners to safely accommodate all users, including cyclists. A push for a nationwide standard is now taking place in both houses of Congress.
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