A driver who wants to pass a bicyclist must do so at a distance no less than three feet, unless unable to do so due to traffic or roadway conditions. In these cases, the driver must slow to a reasonable and safe speed, and pass only when doing so does not create a hazard.

3 feet distance from side or from behind of the bicycle?

  • 1
    When you pass a vehicle having certain distance, it's the distance you maintain with it from the side.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 7:22
  • Agree - 3 feet at the side. Coming within 3 feet behind a cyclist is Very Bad Driving, whether the driver is passing or (especially) not passing the cyclist.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 12:34
  • 1
    Logically speaking, you can't pass a bicycle when you're 3 feet behind them; you'd run over them instead of passing them. Similarly, you can't pass them when you're 3 feet in front of them, because you're already past them. Therefore, 3 feet to the side is the only reasonable way to interpret the statement.
    – Hellion
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


I checked the California Driver Handbook. It just says three feet. But the photo clearly shows side by side.
enter image description here

If were the bicyclist, honestly I would not care from which direction three feet distance is.

So as a language question I would say distance can be any direction unless specified. Legally, you should check your local regulations.

  • Really, you'd be perfectly fine on your bicycle with a car driving 3 feet behind you??
    – Hellion
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 16:05
  • It is wrong to hit bicycles with your car. I'm glad they cleared that up with that helpful picture.
    – Dangph
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 16:38

Quite accidentally, I found this:this

(A quick search online shows it's in Phoenix, Arizona.)

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