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Pedestrians, bike riders, including members of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition mix and mingle at the end of the new bike and pedestrian path of the Bay Bridge in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

Regional air quality and transportation officials just launched a bike-sharing program in San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. The goal: to make more convenient getting to and from public transit, encourage people to take shorter trips by bike and reduce air pollution.

A few days later, Caltrans opened the new Bay Bridge's bike path from the East Bay partway to Yerba Buena Island. Eventually, it will go to the island, and plans are frequently discussed for extending it to San Francisco.

Cycling, for recreation and commuter transportation, has become an integral part of our society -- whether it's riders flocking up Mount Diablo on the weekends or using BART and bikes to get to work.

While encouraging cycling, our leaders must also take steps to ensure riders' safety. That's why Gov. Jerry Brown should sign AB 1371, legislation on his desk requiring that motorists allow three feet when passing bikes.

Twenty-two other states have at least three-foot protections. But Brown has twice vetoed similar legislation. While he said he supported the minimum spacing, he found fault each time with the particulars of the bill. This year, Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, has consulted with the administration to address the governor's concerns.

It's time for Brown to sign the bill.


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Current law requires motorists to pass at a safe distance, but doesn't define what that is. The ambiguity leads to wide interpretations. Most cyclists have stories of a car, or worse, a truck, passing just inches away. Sometimes the drivers approach closely without thinking, sometimes without caring, and sometimes, sad to say, in a deliberate effort to rattle riders.

Three feet is a reasonable minimum distance. It allows a bit of room for a cyclist to maneuver around a sudden obstacle or hazard in the road without risking winding up on the hood of the passing vehicle.

We recognize the deep tensions between riders and motorists. Indeed, some cyclists act recklessly and deserve disdain. But they're the exception, not the rule, and their bad behavior is not a reason to ignore the very real danger to other riders.

Unfortunately, this has turned into a partisan issue. Most of the Senate and Assembly votes for the bill were cast by Democrats, most against came from Republicans.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar said the law would be hard to enforce because drivers can't judge three feet. We disagree. Most drivers have a good idea what that distance looks like.

Governor Brown should rise above the silly partisanship and the tiresome tension between drivers and riders. It's time to provide cyclists this needed protection.