How Far Should Drivers Be from Bicycles on the Road?


In California, the law requires that drivers must always provide at least three feet of space to bicyclists on the road.

This means that when passing a bicycle, drivers should make sure that they are not too close, and that there is enough distance for the cyclist to remain safe. Additionally, drivers must use extra caution when passing bicyclists in areas that are particularly difficult to navigate, such as narrow lanes or around curves and corners.

The Bicyclist Buffer & Personal Injury Consequences

Like many personal injury cases in California, each party in a bicycle accident case is assigned a percentage of fault for causing the accident. This is to recognize that accidents are almost always complicated events, and it’s not always fair to attribute 100% fault to one party when the other party contributed negligence to causing the accident. That said, 100% negligence may be assigned to a party whose actions were so clearly negligent or egregious.

This can be the case for drivers who failed to maintain the three-buffer distance between their vehicles and bicyclists during the moments leading up to an accident. Drivers who fail to maintain this distance not only commit a traffic law violation, but they create an unsafe condition on the road that would make them much more liable for causing a collision with a bicyclist.

What If a Bicyclist Wasn’t in the Bike Lane?

For the most part, a bicyclist is required to ride in the bike lane when one is available. Unless a cyclist was riding outside of the bike lane for one of the accepted exceptions, they may be assigned a certain percentage of fault for causing an accident.

The following

  • There is no designated bike lane available
  • They are passing another cyclist
  • There is debris or another hazard obstructing the bike lane
  • The cyclist intends to make a turn that requires them to leave the bike lane

Whether or not a bicyclist should have been in the bike lane, however, may not have as significant of an impact on attributing fault as a driver who failed to maintain a three-foot buffer zone. In other words, drivers owe a duty of care to bicyclists and must maintain the buffer zone at all times; if they don’t, drivers may be more responsible for causing an accident regardless of where on the road a bicyclist was at the time of the collision.

We Can Help with Your Bicycle Accident Injury Case

Whether you were the bicyclist injured in a collision with a vehicle or a driver who must defend against such a claim, you need experienced legal assistance. The Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser can provide the legal support you need to overcome the legal challenges that come with a bicycle accident injury claim.

With our assistance, you can have a better chance of securing an agreeable outcome. Contact us online now to learn more.