H-SANTA MARIA

Jan 3, 2014 6:30 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

New laws for motorists in the New Year

Some new laws take effect this year that will change how California drivers and cyclists share the road.

Starting in September, drivers must stay at least three feet away from cyclists when passing. Drivers must also wait and slow down for cyclists if the road isn't wide enough.

More than 100 bicyclists are killed each year in California, but there are some things bicyclists can do to help protect themselves.

"Everything from jackets, helmets, shoes, brighter lighting systems to be visible on the road," said Main Street Cycles Manager Tony Gamberutti. "These lights are so bright that you can see them in the daylight."

Gamberutti turned his love for cycling into a career, and at Main Street Cycles, safety is the priority.

"The past year has been a rough year. We've had several of our customers and friends hit," said Gamberutti.

He says the Central Coast is bike friendly, but the number of local cyclists being hit seems to be growing.

"I think it's a combination of more cyclists on the road as well as more in our society today people are so distracted with things in their cars," said Gamberutti.

The California DMV found 86% of all bicycle accidents involve a vehicle.

"We do see a lot of that distracted driving when they are just not paying attention to what they are doing. It is scary, especially after a close call," said Gamberutti.

Gamberutti says there is one piece of equipment every cyclists needs to wear -- a helmet. He also says cyclists should wear bright clothing and assume they are invisible.

"We always recommend them to ride as they are invisible, that no one can see them, and they need to never assume someone does see them," said Gamberutti.

But some local motorists say practicing safety has to be on both sides of the bike lane.

"I see them a lot driving in the direction I'm coming in and that makes me nervous," said Santa Maria resident Birginia Alvarado.

"I am concerned when cyclists aren't wearing proper safety gear," said Gabriel Zararius.

Bicyclists must follow many of the same rules as vehicles, including stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, speeding laws, and yielding the right-of-way when entering traffic.

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