Yesterday there was a big announcement at the new Serious Cycling location in Northridge in regards to the upcoming Three Feet for Safety Act (CVC 21760.) The news is that the law will be coming into effect on September sixteenth of this month. This law will be put in effect in hopes to reduce the number of bicycle vs. vehicle collisions that happen all too often here in Los Angeles.
At yesterday’s press conference, there were city district members, AAA, sheriffs, and the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition to help bring perspective and the functional purpose of the new soon-to-be law. Having gone to said conference to not only represent the team in hopes of getting some air time and a possible modeling gig from my appearance but to also check out our new shop location that is a fifteen minute ride when traveling at a post-inebriated state. All jokes aside, there were a few things mentioned that I took into account and seemed to have a slight concern towards.
Before I continue I would like to preface that I in no way think that this new law is a bad idea. If there is one thing to take home from this, its another law meant to encourage safety between two human beings on the roads. There are very few justifiable arguments one can make involving a counter-argument to this topic. As a good friend of mine once told me,
“There is no substitute for safety.”
That being said, the term that was used the most during this announcement was the word, “educate.” The district officials, sheriffs, and everyone else who wasn’t a spectator wants to use this law to educate the people about safety measures that can be taken between a cyclist and a motorist. If you think back to a few years ago when Antonio Villaraigosa was the mayor and the original “Give me 3″ campaign began in 2010.
Let that sink in for a bit. There has been ( I can only imagine) a significant amount of funds put towards raising awareness and (dare I use the term) education for the past four years. Why are we still in the education phase of a law that has been brought to the attention of others for the length of a high school education? With the increasing popularity of alternatives to conventional vehicular transportation, it is hard for me to believe that someone could be so ill informed on an issue that is right in our own county for such an extended amount of time.
The law drives this slap on the wrist further home when mentioning the punishments for violating said law. The fine for passing a cyclist within 3 feet at an unsafe speed is 25$ and over $200 if they are hit (free if you hit and run.) While I agree with the sheriff who mentions that it is obvious when a car is passing a cyclist within three feet, the cynic made itself very well known yesterday morning.
I’m n business major, but from the job experience I have had and through talking with friends who own their own businesses, I can conclude that successful companies would like to take the most efficient amount of time possible (short and sweet) to educate the workers they hope to achieve success through and go straight to enforcing said policies once all is understood. I realize that this may be more difficult to do for citizens in an entire county but four years is more than enough time to change a behavior pattern. Look at the process to obtain a drivers license. We skim through a very short book for no more than a week, take a few tests, pay money, and we are trusted to remain educated on the rules of the road for the rest of the time we plan to drive. If I am held responsible to follow a set of vehicular rules in a short time frame such as this, I would expect four years to learn an additional law is more than enough time to go straight to the enforcing process.
As romantic of a gesture this may seem, it is only dressing a more complex and much larger issue. Most cyclist are aware of the elephant in the room when discussing this topic (the topic of the hit and run driver.) A much more serious and preventable issue that should be addressed by city officials.
The main point I would like to make is that while this new law is a cute gesture to get more people on bikes and on the roads, a big part of me knows that this is legislative lip service. People are going to get passed by cars. Sometimes, given the circumstances, cars are going to get closer than they’re supposed to. It comes with the territory of occupying the road. Cars get closer to other cars on a more frequent basis. Cycling on public roads isn’t for everyone. It takes a strong will and a lot of courage to do what most of us do, some on a daily basis. Thanks for making the cyclist’s perspective more aware to the public, but there are bigger fish to fry if you (the powers that be) want to make the masses feel safe in an infrastructure that is built for the two ton metal box that is a car.