Survey of three foot law signs

The California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) approved a new 3 foot passing traffic sign at their meeting last week. The CTCDC adopts rules and regulations prescribing uniform standards and specifications for all official traffic control devices — signs, lights, and pavement markings — in the state of California.

The committee approved a design with “STATE LAW” on black text on a yellow background, similar to the text and coloring on “YIELD TO PEDESTRIAN” signs. The remaining text and symbols below that are black on a white rectangular sign as is typical for other regulatory signs. Caltrans still needs to design the official sign, but it will look something like this.

CA committee approves 3 foot sign

The Caltrans MUTCD editor says this sign will be included in the next edition of the CA MUTCD, which will be published by the end of this year (2014).

Currently, no similar sign exists in the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Traffic engineer and cyclist John Ciccarelli, who asked the CTCDC to consider this new sign, researched existing signs around the United States.

The state of Florida experimented with a graphic sign (the top illustration below) before settling on the regulatory “Motorist shall give 3 foot clearance” sign.


The state of Utah adopted two signs. The first is a white regulatory sign. Utah DOT plans to replace “Share the Road” signs with the yellow “motorists give 3 ft” warning sign throughout the state.


The engineer who proposed this “3 feet” sign for California — John Ciccarelli — became a member of the CTCDC after Caltrans changed their policy to add “nonmotorized road users” to the committee membership in 2012. The committee meets only three times a year, so this is blazingly fast action. Ciccarelli and the CTCDC are to be commended for their work.


  1. Personally, I like the two Utah signs the best, and the second Florida sign is good as well. The first Florida sign makes me think that I’d have motorists yelling out their windows for me to give them three feet (I say this only because I’ve experienced what some motorists do on the roads). The proposed CA sign seems to make sense as well, though I prefer the all-yellow sign Utah adopted myself.

  2. Good point about that first Florida sign, and traffic engineers discovered that this sign was ambiguous and confusing when they tested it on the road.

    An all yellow sign similar to the Utah sign was discussed for California but rejected because yellow diamond signs are cautionary or advisory signs, while a white rectangular sign always shows legal information. Caution signs imply that cyclists are traffic hazards, cautioning for something unusual and unexpected like deer or falling rocks, while the regulatory sign implies that bikes are an expected part of traffic.

  3. The initial proposal for California was “GIVE 3 FEET” like Utah and Florida have. The committee changed it to “PASS” to inform the motoring public that they should pass cyclists as if they’re passing any other vehicle on the road.

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