You, being an enlightened and informed reader of SFist, already know about California's 3-foot passing law. However, as CBS 5 reports, some drivers in the Bay Area are unaware that state law dictates that they must give cyclists three feet when passing — and statewide enforcement numbers show that a lack of citations may be partially to blame.
"Vehicles are required to slow down or give 3 feet, and bike riders are encouraged to ride as safely as possible," CHP spokesman Mike Harris told the Chronicle back in 2014 when the law was passed. And yet, while the law itself is breathtaking in its clarity, a trip to Oakland by CBS 5 reporter Doug Sovern demonstrated that some drivers don't even know it exists — of the ten he spoke with, ten professed ignorance.
With, as CBS 5 notes, fatal collisions involving drivers and cyclists on the rise in 2016, this is a problem.
Of course, not everyone is aware of every law on the books — that's where enforcement comes in. In this situation, however, it might be where enforcement drops the ball. According to CBS 5, officers with the CHP have only issued eight tickets for a driver violating the law since it took effect in September of 2014.
Eight. And that's statewide.
Now, of course, it makes sense that local law enforcement such as the SFPD or OPD is more likely to spot this particular type of moving violation than the California Highway Patrol. But, even so, it is hard to imagine that the actual number of statewide violations is so low.
SFist reached out to San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spokesperson Chris Cassidy about the numbers, and inquired as to his organization's view of SFPD enforcement (or lack thereof) of the 3-foot law and other moving violations. In a nutshell, he thinks the department is improving.
"For SFPD traffic enforcement, it's important that they meet their promise to focus citations on the most dangerous traffic violations," Cassidy told SFist. "That Focus on the Five promise is something they met for the first time last month, with over 50 percent of citations dedicated to people driving speeding, running red lights, running stop signs, violating others' rights of way and violating turn restrictions — the traffic violations that account for the most serious collisions."
Cassidy further explained that while enforcement is important, the best way to make cyclists safer is to physically separate them from cars. "We're fighting across SF to see streets designed so that people exercising poor judgment don't endanger others whether traffic enforcement officials decide to do their jobs or not."