THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - A new bike law is set to go into effect in a couple of weeks aimed at making it safer for bicyclists and drivers to share the road. It will mostly put the pressure on drivers to make sure there's enough room.
An avid bicyclist and head mechanic at Joel's Bicycle Shop in Thousand Palms, Kevin Johnson knows the risks of riding his bike on busy streets.
"I've had maybe two-to-three brushes here and there with closeness, but nothing major," Johnson said.
However, that's not always the case. So far, this year in the Coachella Valley, there's been seven bicycle collisions - one of them deadly.
According to the Indio California Highway Patrol, in 2013 there were seven bicycle collisions with zero deaths. In 2012, there were ten bicycle collisions, one resulting in a fatality.
"It's easy to see who wins, a car weighs a couple thousand pounds versus a bicyclist, a bicyclist usually has major injuries," said CHP Officer Spencer Severing.
Looking to further protect bicyclists from cars on the road, a new state law goes into effect September 16, creating a buffer zone for bike riders.
"Yes, I do come into traffic here and there to avoid certain obstacles, so a three-foot rule is going to be nice to have," Johnson said.
The law says the driver must allow at least three feet of distance when passing a bicyclist. If three feet isn't available, the driver must then slow down and pass a bike rider when it's safe. Johnson said especially for bicyclists who ride on narrow roads such as Highway 74, three feet is a significant amount of distance.
"It gives the cyclists just a little bit more of a comfort feeling, cause I mean a lot of people do it for commuting, transportation. you know recreation, fitness, and I mean it all needs to be safe," he said.
The valley is also known for a number of cycling events, such as the Tour de Palm Springs that brings thousands of cyclists to the desert. The CHP says they'll be watching for people who don't obey the law. They say enforcing the new bike law will be up to the officer's discretion.
"So, we'd encourage drivers to use due diligence and pass safely," said Officer Severing.
Drivers could face up to a $200 fine for breaking the law.