3 feet sign RK

A cyclist and a motorist pass a new sign on Silverado Trail just outside of Napa. The new state law requires vehicles to give a minimum of 3 feet of space when passing cyclists.

Raphael Kluzniok/Register

Motorists have been seeing new signs along the Silverado Trail– a reminder for drivers to stay at least 3 feet from cyclists.

In January, Napa County workers placed six signs near Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga to remind motorists of the new state law that took effect in September.

No citations have been issued, according to Napa Courts’ records. The fine for a first offense is $237, according to Napa Courts’ Executive Officer Richard Felstein.

The new rule should help drivers and bicyclist be more aware of each other, said Rick Marshall, Napa County’s deputy director of public works. Marshall helped develop the language for the new sign as a member of the California Traffic Control Devices Committee, a group that approves new signs in California.

Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 1371 into law in August 2013 with the support of the California Bicycle Coalition. A law enforcement officer has to witness a violation to issue a citation.

Bicyclists interviewed said the 3-foot requirement raises awareness that vehicles and cyclists can coexist on the roadways. Most motorists are respectful of motorists, they said, but there are always a few who drift onto bike lanes.

“I think it’s a good law,” said Bill Hillhouse, a longtime bicycle rider and owner of Bicycle Works in Napa.

Joel King, a member of the Eagle Cycling Club and the Napa County Bicycle Coalition, said he would also like to see rumble strips along the bike lanes.

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Genji Schmeder, another longtime cyclist, said he appreciated the new 3-foot space law, but hadn’t seen a noticeable improvement in motorist behavior.

Schmeder avoids cycling on Silverado Trail, saying the narrow shoulders are too close to fast-traveling motorists. “It’s too dangerous,” he said.

“I think much more important would be slowing down traffic,” Schmeder said.

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