In 2012, 726 cyclists were killed and 49,000 were hurt in motor vehicle traffic accidents. States and cities across the country have adopted laws that create a buffer zone between bicycles and cars in an effort to make cycling safer. These laws aim to reduce bicycle deaths and injuries from automobile drivers. Learn more about the bicycle buffer zone laws and how they work. Also, learn the possible penalties for violating them.
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What is a bicycle buffer zone?
The buffer zone for bicycle buffers is the area around the bike lane that increases the distance between cars and bikes or parked cars. These zones are often marked with painted strips or images of bikes on the pavement to indicate the bike lane adjacent.
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The U.S. Transportation Research Board says buffered bike lanes offer more advantages than a wider lane. Because they are not directly adjacent to traffic, buffer zones make bicyclists feel more comfortable. These zones can be combined with street parking spots so that bikes can safely avoid the “doorzone” where drivers open their doors to parked cars, injuring cyclists. This makes biking safer and more appealing to a wider variety of cyclists.
What are the Benefits of Bike Buffer Zones for Cycling?
Drivers must drive in the traffic lane, and not in the buffer zone. When pulling into and out of parking areas near buffer zones, drivers need to be careful of bicycles. It is important that cyclists are courteous and keep in the designated bike lane. To prevent injuries from door openings, cyclists must be attentive to the drivers and passengers who are exiting parked vehicles. This fact sheet from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), contains more safety tips for riding.
Bicycle Buffer Zone Laws
Wisconsin was the first state to adopt a safe passing law for bicycle buffer zones in 1973. Similar safe passing laws are in place in 33 other states and D.C. New Jersey and other states are expected to follow suit. States require that cars and bikes be kept at least three feet apart. However, some states have more general safe passing laws.
California Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1371, the “Three Feet for Safety Act” in September 2013. This law requires that drivers who pass other vehicles or bicycles must keep at least three feet distance between them and the bike or cycle being passed. Drivers who violate the buffer zone of three feet can face a $35 to $100 fine and $250 penalty for each subsequent ticket.
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Although bicycle buffer zones reduce the chances of cyclists being struck by cars, they don’t prevent such accidents. You should consult an attorney if you have been in a bicycle accident.