3 foot law today and the yellow centerline

Note: Don’t forget – San Jose Bike Train rolls Wednesday morning, 8 AM from Diridon Station.

California’s three foot passing law takes effect today. In spite of the predictions by a few dozen malcontents who predicted gridlock on California roads, nothing much happened. As of this writing, three bicycle crashes have been called into the CHP statewide today, which is about average. Ho hum.

Crossing the centerline to pass

Nationally, there has been some discussion about the legality of crossing the yellow line when passing a very slow moving vehicle like a typical bike. When the California legislature first passed a three foot bill in 2011, it contained a provision to allow motorists to cross the yellow center line when passing a cyclist. Governor Jerry Brown said this was unsafe and vetoed the bill.

I think most cyclists understand that the yellow line is warranted to warn drivers that passing is unsafe, but there are locations where sight lines might be insufficient for passing a vehicle traveling near the speed limit in a 45 MPH zone, but there’s plenty of room for a cyclist pushing uphill at 10 MPH. As the video above from Santa Cruz County shows, crossing the yellow line can be perfectly safe.

Eli Damon and Steven Goodridge go in depth on the history, reasoning, and safety of the the yellow centerline with mixed speed traffic over at iamtraffic.org.


  1. VT (and possibly others) allow crossing a solid yellow even to pass cars. The catch is that of all my VT driving, I’m not sure I ever had a chance to do it, because the words were just too windy anyway. There are signs nearing towns that will declare it no longer a safe passing zone too.

  2. San Jose has various examples or long, straight, low speed, low volume, good visibility residential streets with double yellow lines.

    See this one below. Can you even see the end of the road? Looks like enough room to pass to me. These could have been good bike boulevards if San Jose had not double striped them to encourage speeding and the harassment of cyclists.


  3. I don’t believe I’ve ever held up a driver for more than 10 seconds before they have raced around over double yellow lines. The whole argument is a red herring to throw in our faces by people who will sit behind a slow car for miles without passing. Just call the argument BS and move on.

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