Brown vetoes bicycle buffer zone

Oversized vehicles and narrow lanes can be a deadly combination for cyclists unless drivers recognize that danger.

Anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle knows how scary and dangerous it is when cars pass too closely at high speed. So the California Bicycle Coalition made its top legislative priority for the year a bill, SB 910, to require drivers to give bicyclists a three-foot buffer or slow down to 15 mph. And even though the Legislature overwhelmingly approved this reasonable traffic safety measure, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it on Friday.

“His veto made no sense. We honestly can't figure out why he vetoed the bill,” said CBC executive director Dave Snyder, a San Francisco resident who used to run the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and who founded Transportation for a Livable City (now known as Livable City). “It's not based on logic or public policy, but just based on politics.”

The California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation opposed the measure on the grounds that it could impede the flow of automobile traffic, and Brown cited their stand in his veto message. Indeed, keeping cars moving at high speed has long been the central goal of these agencies, even when it has high economic, environmental, or public safety costs.

But Snyder is right that Brown's veto message is confusing and contradictory. He expresses support for the three-foot buffer, but expresses concern about slowing traffic to 15 mph, seemingly confused about the meaning of the word “or,” meaning drivers can provide the buffer or slow down to a safe passing speed if they're unable to give bicyclists that much room.

People who don't ride bikes tend to forget that automobiles are deadly weapons, and that a bicyclist's brief swerve to avoid a pothole, broken glass, or other hazard can have disastrous consequences if a car is passing too closely. This veto follows another illogical one – Brown's rejection of Sen. Mark Leno's local vehicle license fee bill, which would have pumped $75 million into SF's coffers and was almost universally supported by this year's mayoral field – that gave undue deference to automobile owners.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Police Department recently launched a crackdown on bicyclists in the city, issuing dozens of tickets on Market Street for running stop lights and on Townsend for briefly riding on the sidewalk en route to the Caltrain station – and ignoring the nearby cars parked in bike lanes and running those same red lights.

Now, before we get to the commenters' tirade about scofflaws on bicycles – which come every time we write about bikes – let me note that people break the law on every form of transportation, everyday. Motorists speed, run stop signs and lights, and illegally edge past pedestrians (who themselves jaywalk with great regularity). And every Muni bus has several riders who haven't paid. None of us are angels, so try not to get too worked up into a sanctimonious rage.

But if you want to truly understand why bicyclists can often be so flagrant in our disregard for the law, consider that we're using a transportation system and abiding traffic laws that weren't designed for us. Seriously, just ride a bike and you'll quickly understand. We don't need to stop at every stop sign or signal light to have a safe, smooth-flowing transportation system that doesn't steal the right-of-way from drivers, who we can usually see and hear coming with plenty of time to stop. Idaho and other jurisdictions actually treat bikes differently than cars in this realm, with laws that don't require cyclists to lose momentum by repeatedly coming to complete stops, and it works well.

The fact is, the bike buffer bill is the very minimum that we need to encourage cycling as a safe and appealing transportation option to more people, which would only help our environment, public health, and dependence on fossil fuels. And the fact that it was vetoed for petty, illogical reasons is incredibly frustrating.

Yet there may be a silver lining to this. Snyder said the CBC, which is just beginning to increase its reach and influence and to prepare a more ambitious agenda on behalf of California cyclists, will use this defeat as a launching pad for future efforts.

“The main benefit of the three-foot bill was the community organizing that we did to get is passed. So now we can leverage that for our next steps,” Snyder said. “California needs a lot more than a three-foot buffer to give people more safe transportation choices.”


This 3 feet rule is as unenforceable as it is untenable. How is a cop supposed to measure 3 feet from 100 feet away when quite possibly traveling in the opposite direction? And even if they could, so what? If a car has to move 3 feet to the left to give bikes more room than they need, then that places them closer to oncoming traffic, which in turn makes it more likely that they will have to swerve right, sideswiping the bike. Roads are only so wide and trying to artifically segregate them in this way can easily be counter-productive and dangerous to cyclists. And sorry, Steven, but you DO need to obey the traffic laws if you claim to have any reasonable right to lecture other road users. Get your own house in order and then we'll talk. If you can't control others, then start by controlling yourselves. Lead by example.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

"This 3 feet rule is as unenforceable as it is untenable. How is a cop supposed to measure 3 feet from 100 feet away when quite possibly traveling in the opposite direction? "

How is this different from any of the other traffic laws? The cops have to eyeball these things and they do all the time.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2011 @ 8:01 am

All. the. frickin'. time! I know from personal experience. Another excuse for cops to give you a ticket. And you know it's going to fall disproportionately on people of color.

Still... this is about the only time I can think of where the CHP actually took a position that they DON'T want something to be made illegal or more strict. That in itself should tell you something.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 14, 2011 @ 10:26 am

"If a car has to move 3 feet to the left to give bikes more room than they need, then that places them closer to oncoming traffic, which in turn makes it more likely that they will have to swerve right, sideswiping the bike."
Seems you missed the "or" part in:
3 ft buffer area OR slow down.

Posted by Raelalt on Oct. 15, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

Actually Snyder, the "3-foot to pass" law has been in force in 19 other states for as long as thirty years and none of the issues you raise came to pass.

And I don't know why Steven needs to obey traffic laws to lecture other road users. That's just a conversation killer.

Lead by example? Here's motorists dealing with red lights and STOP signs:


Posted by David Huntsman on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

19 States have that law? BFD. That means that 31 see no reason for it.

And yes, absolutely, cyclists can't keep ignoring the law while expecting others to adhere to it. No way around that. Problem?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

I was going to write up a comment but Snyder nailed it. As Utopian as it may sound you cannot have two sets of traffic laws to abide by, it just doesn't work. No one will argue that cars don't run red lights, but bikes (90%) run stop signs and lights all day long at every stop they come across in SF and it creates confusion because you never know what they will try to do. I walk, ride a bike, ride a motorcycle, and drive a car in SF so i have the perspective from all angles and bikes do not give right of way even to pedestrians and a majority have the attitude of moral superiority, taking the whole sidewalk and blocking cross walks constantly. This is just plain wrong and if bicycles want to gain respect they have to earn it.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

stop sign, and I splatted him, it's doubtful if I'd feel any compunction after the fact. They've gotten way too big for their boots, and these asswipes need to wise up or suffer a little Darwinism.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

What a sad, vile, hateful person you are. You're actually advocating violence against people that simply irritate you, and saying that you wouldn't feel any compunction about taking a human life. You're a sick person, and a coward for not identifying yourself.

Posted by steven on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:08 am

But it's not that strange that the compassion someone feels for the victim of an accident might be related to the extent to which their reckless behavior contributed to their fate.

I also think that it's clear that the arrogance shown by some cyclists is going to lead to road rage in some cases. There was a hit-and-run in LA recently that was an example of that.

There is little point in riding in a way that deliberately frustrates drivers.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:50 am

I ride a bike almost daily and it is rare that someone in a car doesn't do something erratic that threatens my safety. On many rides, it is multiple times. Your unsubstantiated generalizations do nothing to further your argument. Cars intentionally try to see how close they can pass to me. They honk their horn at me, they pass me and then make an immediate right turn in front of me. I suggest that the "moral superiority" you note, is really survival instinct. If you ride a motorcycle, then you must realize that you, just a a cyclist, must ride to be seen,

When a cyclist is unpredictable, a motorist is inconvenienced, when a motorist in erratic, the cyclist is injured or killed. Big difference. I ask you how many pedestrians are injured by cyclist? How many motorists are injured by cyclists. Daily, cyclists are hit by cars, and the majority of those accidents are the fault of the motorist.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2011 @ 9:02 am

Everything wrong with Steven's generation, a generation responsible for the economic collapse and one which is incredibly selfish and only interested in doing what it wants, when it wants and to who it wants with no regard to the consequences, is encapsulated in this piece.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

I'm 43, so it's not my generation that is responsible for the economic collapse, it is the baby boomers and older who designed unsustainable and corrupt economic systems that, among other things, rely too much on fossil fuels and American greed.

As for the other commenters and their predictable criticisms, if you want people to respect the law, give them a voice in how they're created. Having different rules for cars and bikes is not unreasonable, and as I mentioned, that very system works well in Idaho and many European countries. And as another commenter noted, the three-foot rule works fine in 19 states.

Finally, my point about drivers breaking laws wasn't to call for tougher enforcement, but to head off the very sanctimonious criticisms you've offered, saying I have no right to advocate for better bike safety measures because I don't come to a full stop at every stop sign. What horseshit! You overentitled drivers are the ones killing people in the streets, not the bicyclists.

Posted by steven on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

Someone needs to bring this issue up at the UN Security Council!

How strange that you bring up Idaho - a mostly rural state where I can see these kinds of laws being effective because only cows and large trucks are sharing the roads. Unfortunately in San Francisco, where you have pedestrians, MUNI, bicyclists, drivers and more sharing the roads, the situation is far more complex.

Essentially your response affirms what I wrote earlier - you want what you want and you want it now. You conflate your own desires with what is actually responsible and what works for the population at-large - a sure sign of a narcissistic and immature personality.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

Actually, with the exception of the occasional inattentive drivers hitting pedestrians and bicyclists, San Francisco's complex transportation system works pretty well, even with bicyclists regularly rolling through stop signs and lights, as you and others point out. Why? Because how things actually work on the ground is a far better system than the illogical one that you and the traffic laws are trying to impose on us. All I have advocated for is traffic laws that make sense, and that acknowledge that the only real danger on the roads are motorists, an assertion that is easily proven by traffic fatality figures. And your failure to grasp and accept that simple fact is not the sign of mature and reasonable mind, despite your condescending attitude.   

Posted by steven on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

for the financial industry badgering politicians into deregulation and then creating a Ponzie scheme for themselves?


As I ride up to four way stops in the city, on my bike, there is pretty regular some entitled "one less car" person racing through the signs when I have the right of way, on my bike. Through self preservation I slow down at four way stops to keep from being rammed into by some fixie a-hole jabbering on his Iphone.

Running red lights on Market you say, as the cars come from odd angles going fast down to the freeway, anyone running red lights at some point... well I feel sorry for the car drivers. I wouldn't want to live with that guilt.

Also you trying so hard as to why you are so entitled to not follow the law is pretty entertaining. It's up there with the "it's your generation that..." argument.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

Denying equitable road access to bicycles is a civil rights issue.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

asserts that cyclists have some kind of primacy over thoroughfares. You're being even more hoplelessly clueless than Snyder here.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

Not primacy, equal and safe access to the roads our tax dollars pay for. California Vehicle Code guarantees this--bikes have all responsibilities and privileges of any other vehicle--but the law is not enforced equitably to protect cyclists. Autos are required to control their vehicles and not collide with other road users already, but this too is not enforced when it comes to cyclists.

Any progressive, liberal or moderate should support the notion that a valid rolf of government is to step in when the more powerful take advantage of the less powerful. This measure sought to rectify the power imbalance between 2 ton motor vehicles and 200# of cyclist and bike.

We are not freed slaves who need federal power to guarantee our civil rights by any means. But we are entitled to equal protection under the law and this measure was a modest step in that direction.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 5:50 am

You can't have it both ways. You need to stop at stop signs and lights, keep off the sidewalk, obey one-way signs and keep well to the right.

Then talk to me about equality.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 7:17 am

And you (drivers) need to stop using you phone/eating/reading/grooming while you drive (all of which I see each time I go out), start using your turn signals, look before you turn. But since you do not we need some sort of protection from you and the rest of the ego-centric cagers.

Posted by Raelalt on Oct. 15, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

Steven dismisses the opposition from the CHP by saying that it's the central goal of these agencies [including the CHP] to keep cars moving at high speeds.

Really Steven? The CHP?

I'll have to to try that as an excuse next time they pull me over... but officer, I'm just trying to fulfill the central goal of your agency.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

This law will kill cyclists, as it will force drivers to enter into manoevers that will place cyclists at risk, particularly those who routinely flaunt the laws,

Sydner is a self-serving jerk who will kill bikers to further his aims - I know him personally and can vouch for his evil motives. I can back that up - just ask me.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

just good intentions.

Who is going to obey a law cops will never enforce and 99% of the population will have no idea is on the books two weeks after it becomes law.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

prevent any driver wiping out an asshole cyclist if that's what he/she has coming to him.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

number of additional cyclists who will be killed by frustrated drivers who have been driven to the edge by self-serving laws and whiney activists?

It's trivially easy to wipe out a self-absorbed, law-breaking cyclist and get away with it. Snyder acts like he's in a position of power but the truth is that any of us can snuff his ornery ass out in a New York minute.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

keep it up!
The struggle against the entitled and the closed mindeded is a wakefu and sleepless one.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

First of all I'll ask you what your name is. After you won't tell me that I won't believe a thing you say.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

Ask me if I care whether a loser like you believes me.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

I'm not the one calling out specific political actors in this city by name and impersonating them on other threads so I don't really see the connection.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

I notice when i drive, motorists give bicyclists a buffer as they pass them. Also, most drivers will slow down to the speed of the bicyclist, if they are unable to pass them. Because if you can't get around them without hitting them, then you won't pass them.

I do however think bicyclist have a disregard for the law. I have almost been hit by bicyclists several times while crossing the street legally in downtown San Francisco. When I yell at the bicyclists, they seem to get irritated. So when I am at work, I am sure to cite every bicyclist that I see violate the law. I am not a total jerk about it, I will let the bicyclist pass my fully marked police car and run two stop signs/red lights before I will give them a ticket for just one of the stop signs/red lights. And even when I give them a break, they get mad at me. I remember this one bicyclist that ran five stop signs coming down Hayes and the last one she almost got hit by a car. I only cited her for the last stop sign, only because she almost got killed. She seemed very annoyed that I stopped her. But that is just the way some bicyclists are.

BTW, I was a bicycle cop for four years and I managed to stop at all the stop signs and red lights (and it wasn't that difficult).

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

If you really cared about convincing people your not some right wing liar already posting on this subject like a constitution on fire, you might have thrown in a few details of where you work, which station, etc.
Give us a couple of details that won't give away your identity, but some troll impersonating a cop would not know.
As it is your just another anonymous true believer who signifies nothing and convinces no one.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 7:55 pm


I separate lines by an open space.

Like this.^^^^

I don't guests out for claiming something in the real world. If it's made up I've been sucked into bullshittting and if true whatever, this is the Bay Guardian comments section.

If you want to ape my style to mock me you need to try a little harder, my spelling is usually on while my editing is half assed. You need to put words out of order or add a conjunction out of place.

I will be happy to give you more tips if you wish.

Posted by Meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 9:49 am

You make my mcguffins warm and tingly
But seriously, stop with the impersonating, its crap like this that makes the non-true-believers skeptical about your telling them how ignorant they ar you think people here haven't been following my every word,and don't need some amateur meatlock telling them whats what?!
You probably don't even ride a bike, man!
I've invested a lot of time, energy, and ego over the years building my online personae here, and i'm not about to have some twobit interloper spoil it.

Posted by Meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:09 am

Getting a ticket at Harveys for going down Shipley alley the wrong way on my MC back in the day, when messengers drank there. Then later in the same day I saw the same cop riding his bike down the sidewalk by the car wash across from the end up. Going back to the station I suppose. I would see that old man riding on the sidewalk all the time.

Posted by Meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 9:53 am

I was hit in NY by a Chinese bicycle deliveryman going the wrong way up a street in the West Village and ended up with a broken leg and wrist. The deliveryman was an illegal immigrant from the Fujian province who didn't speak English, so my insurance was responsible for my injuries and I received no compensation. As far as the illegal immigrant - he disappeared after receiving a summonses and still to this day hasn't been found.

My experience, at least in NY, is that bicyclists routinely flout the law and pedestrians, as in my case, end up paying the price.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

I love bikes and relate to and support bicyclists in absolutely every single way. I have in fact made bikes from raw elements and delivered them personally to orphans.
However, my support of bicyclists ends here with this article, because, as I described earlier, I have personal experience with extraterrestrial aliens on bikes who simply FLOUT the law! This will not stand.
Because of the terrorist threats posed by bikes and riders, I can no longer personally support their unAmerican and criminal behavior.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

Please learn the proper usage of both the possessive and contractive forms of "your" and "you're." You write like a hillbilly. YOU'RE an idiot.

"You're is the contracted form of You are. This form is used in sentences using "you" as the subject of the sentence with the verb "to be" used as either the helping verb (e.g. You're going ..., You're watching ...) or the principal verb of the sentence."

"Your is the possessive pronoun form. This form is used to express that something belongs to "you"."

Got it genius? Reading YOUR chicken scratchings is like listening to someone rake their nails across a chalkboard - over and over and over.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

My Mcguffin is antagonizing the spelling police.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 8:57 am

Not "spelling."

Jesus YOU'RE dumber than a box of rocks.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

Like many people, I drive, I ride, and I walk.

When I drive, I'm constantly on the lookout for cops, and there are a host of rules I need to follow. Add to that the constant search for parking, and it makes for an unpleasant experience.

When I walk, I can't get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. And don't even get me started on MUNI -it's slower than walking.

Ah, but when I'm on my bike, I have the best of all worlds.
-I get around faster than MUNI, sometimes faster than cars, because I can weave through traffic at will.
-The rules of the road are not for me. Cars stopped at stop signs and red lights can eat my dust.
-If I don't like the road conditions, I can just mount the sidewalk and pretend I'm a pedestrian.
-I never pay for parking, I just lock my bike to any city fixture available.
-When my cell phone rings, I know that I can answer it and just keep riding, and no cop will ever stop me.
-No one ever yells at me for going the wrong way on a one way street. Those rules are just for cars, not for me.
-No need for insurance or registration fees. Again, those costs are just for cars and motorcycles.

Yes, it's good to be on a bike, but that's not to say it couldn't be better. I wouldn't mind having one lane on every road just for me. And the three foot rule does just that. Of course if there's only one lane, then that lane should be for bikes only, which is what the 3-foot rule would do. Well OK, I can share the road, as long as no one passes me and everybody drives at my pace. I'll just cruise along and the cars can wait. People shouldn't drive anyway. It's bad for the environment.

Luckily for me, I'm fit enough to ride a bike. I'm not old or disabled or anything, so I don't need to depend on MUNI or my car.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 8:23 am

And your wilful violation of them makes cycling more dangerous than it otherwise would be.

If cyclists kept well to the right, they'd have 3 feet of space anyway. You wouldn't feel any need for an unenforceable law for that.

But if you try and behave like a car and hog the middle of the road, then you're going to get sideswiped sooner or later, and it will be your fault.

Start riding reasonsibly and we'll cut you a break. Act like an entitled ass when you're an extremely vulnerable road user isn't good for your health.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 8:36 am

threatening to run people over with your car?
priceless debate technique.

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:01 am

The statement was simply that the more recklessly and illegally a cyclist is, the more likely he might suffer from an accident or road rage.

Seems fairly obvious and harmless.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:43 am

Because your'e a dissembling liar.
So delusional you'll even lie about something on this same page.

Posted by Meatlock on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

Something many drivers don't seem to realize is it's not safe for cyclists to ride in the door zone of parked cars, which can cause really awful injuries. And then there are road hazards and cars driving or parked in bike lanes, common occurences that also cause cyclists to take a lane, which is far safer for everyone than trying to avoid slowly down cars for a moment by squeezing into unsafe spaces. Most people who don't ride bikes in cities are simply uneducated about these realities, which would have been the main benefit of this law. Even if it were never enforced, motorists should be taught to keep a safe buffer between exposed cyclists and the deadly weapons that motorists wield.

Posted by steven on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:24 am

Keep right and you might get doored, it's true.

But keep left and you'll more likely get hit by a swerving vehicle.

So doesn't it come down to whether you'd rather hit something that moves or something that doesn't move?

And which type of accident will likely do you the most damage.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:46 am

Actually, bicyclists shouldn't have to make this choice, which is why urban cycling classes teach people to seize a safe space in the road and not squeeze into dangerous situations just accommodate impatient drivers. But to answer your question, it's generally more dangerous to get doored by a parked car. Open door cars have a sharp edge right at face level and they are unyielding when you hit them, so the impact is greater than with cars that are headed your same direction.

But again, this is a choice that cyclists shouldn't have to make. The law states that cyclists are just as entitled to take the entire lane as motorists, and they are only required to be as far to the right as is safe. So please understand that when we're in the middle of the lane, it's usually because there is some obstacle we're avoiding (usually a car), not just because we're overentitled assholes. We'll rarely delay drivers for more than a few seconds in these cases, and both the law, a sense of empathy, and common courtesy require that you just take a deep breath and wait for us to get out of your way. 

Posted by steven on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 11:13 am

Just this morning I saw yet another cyclist cut off and almost hit two pedestrians while he was running a red light. He did not even slowing down to check the cross walk which he could not see from where he was speeding through. We need a "halo" law for pedestrians against cyclists and the next one that takes up the whole sidewalk speeding by gets shoved off his self righteous bike.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 10:38 am

As I wrote, none of us are angels, but that's no reason to threaten violence. Cyclists should yield to pedestrians, but some don't always do so, just like many drivers also don't yield and many pedestrians jaywalk. But there's no reason to condemn an entire class of people or to work yourself up into a violent rage. You should really try to practice great tolerance.

Posted by steven on Oct. 12, 2011 @ 11:19 am