How does the three-foot rule apply when there are already bike lanes in place?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


CrimeBeat Q&A is a weekly feature where police reporter Julie Johnson answers readers’ questions about local crimes and the law.

How does the 3-foot rule apply when there are already bike lanes in place? What if the rider chooses to ride in tandem or at the very outside edge of the bike lane? Are drivers supposed to give them an additional three feet of space or does a bike lane somehow address that?

Keith Rhinehart, Santa Rosa


The Three Feet for Safety Act, which became law in 2014, states that a motor vehicle “shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.”

The presence of paint on the road, including the left-hand line of a bicycle lane, doesn’t change that legal requirement to maintain a 3-foot buffer, which is about the length of a car door.

“Three feet is not a lot of space,” said Petaluma Police Sgt. Ron Klein, who runs the traffic unit. “You would never want to be closer to a bicycle than that.”

Drivers may make exception to the rule on narrow lanes, however the law stresses that motorists practice caution if attempting to pass, slow down and “pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle.”

Klein warned that bicycle lanes, much like crosswalks, can give people a false sense of security.

A cyclist was hit by a car and injured about two weeks ago in Petaluma after he rode into a crosswalk on East Washington Street at Edith Street. The investigator determined the cyclist entered the roadway without checking for oncoming traffic and was at fault, Klein said.

“You have to be really vigilant when you’re on a bike,” Klein said. “You must adhere to all the rules of the road.”

Submit your questions about crime, safety and criminal justice to Staff Writer Julie Johnson at julie.johnson@pressde On Twitter @jjpressdem.

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Claims of "Fake News" will be delayed for moderation
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine