Too much math for drivers, so Massachusetts governor nixes bike buffer law

Massachusetts’ governor kicked a bike-buffer law back to the Legislature, saying there was too much math involved for drivers.

“As currently written … the passing-distance formula presents enforcement and messaging challenges,” Gov. Charlie Baker wrote of the bill H.5103, or “An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities.”

He took issue with the passage stating: “In passing a vulnerable user the operator of a motor vehicle shall pass at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet when the motor vehicle is traveling at 30 miles per hour or less, with 1 additional foot of clearance for every 10 miles per hour that the vehicle is traveling above 30 miles per hour.”

Baker suggested a 3-foot buffer, no matter the speed of the car.

“Clarification is also needed to make sure motorists do not mistake this provision as requiring them to cross the center line,” he added.

California in 2014 enacted the Three Feet for Safety Law, which specified a three-foot minimum for passing a bicycle going the same direction. The fine for violation is $35, or $220 if the bicyclist is injured. Gov. Jerry Brown had vetoed two previous attempts to set a three-foot buffer, partly because the language gave drivers permission to cross the center line.

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