California bicycle legislation

While we’re carrying on about state park closings, transportation funding inequities, and budget deficits, there are a handful of bills currently in the California legislature that may have a direct impact on bicyclists in the Golden State.

SB 910 – 3 foot passing distance

Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal’s SB 910 has gotten the most attention from cyclists. This bill amends CVC 21750 to require motorists to pass at a safe distance with a minimum distance of three feet. Alternatively, motorists who want to pass closer than three feet (for example, in heavy traffic urban environments with slow traffic) must do so at a speed less than 15 MPH faster than the speed of the cyclist. It allows motorists who are passing cyclists to cross a double yellow line when safe. SB 910 (sneakily) defines a ‘substandard lane width’ as a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. Finally, Lowenthal’s bill reduces the base fine from $154 for an unsafe pass to $35 in the hopes this will encourage law enforcement to ticket violators. This fine jumps up to $220 if bodily injury results from an unsafe pass and collision.

SB 910 passed the Senate 26-9 on June 1 and was passed to the Assembly June 2.

The office of the mayor of Los Angeles and various California bicycle groups — including the California Bicycle Coalition, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Santa Cruz County Cycling Club — support this bill, believing the three foot requirement gives law enforcement and the courts a more objective basis for enforcing California’s safe passing requirement.

The Automobile Club of Southern California and AAA Northern California oppose SB910, claiming the proposed law “replaces reasonableness and judgment with a fixed and arbitrary ‘safe distance’.” They especially dislike the 15 MPH passing provision, saying, “Drivers currently are not required to estimate the speed of other moving objects around them, and to precisely calculate their speed in relation to that moving object.”

The California Association of Bicycle Organizations (CABO) famously opposes this bill, saying it weakens current cyclist protections with the three foot and 15 MPH provisions.

Personally, I’m not in favor of three foot legislation — we can and should do better — but I’m not opposed to this particular effort either. Unlike CABO, I don’t find anything particularly objectionable in the proposed law.

AB 147 – Transportation Impact Fees

Local governments in California may charge a Transportation Impact Fee on new developments to offset the impact those projects have on local infrastructure. When a developer builds a new office park or subdivision, that increases traffic on local surface streets, so an Impact Fee is assessed to defray the added maintenance expense. Current law limits the use
of the revenue from these fees to improving bridges and major thoroughfares. Roger Dickinson’s AB 147 authorizes a local agencies to use collected fees for transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

AB 147 passed the Assembly on May 5 and was sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Government and Finance. I support AB 147.

SB 582 — Commuter Benefit Policies

This bill from Republican Senator Bill Emmerson from Riverside County would authorize a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to adopt a commute benefit ordinance requiring employers with 20+ employees to offer pre-tax commute benefits such as an option to pay for their transit, vanpools or bicycling expenses.

Supporters of this bill include the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, the American Lung Association, Facebook, Genentech, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and Transform. You can add my name to this list of supporters.

SB 582 passed the Senate on May 31. Only two senators voted against the bill. One of them was Republican Joel Anderson from El Cajon, which isn’t too surprising. The other “NO” vote came from Joe Simitian, who represents a big chunk of Silicon Valley. Boo Joe.

SB 582 was read in the state Assembly on June 1.

AB 345 – Traffic Control Device Committee

Toni Atkin’s AB 345 would require Caltrans to add add representatives from non-motorized interest groups to the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC). The CTCDC advises Caltrans on traffic control devices. These are all highway signs, lights, and pavement markings. Currently, the member agencies of CTCDC are Caltrans, CHP, California State Association of Counties, League of California Cities, California State Automobile Association, and the Automobile Club of Southern California. AB 345 would open membership up to groups representing cyclists, the disabled, pedestrians, seniors, and public transportation riders.

The California Bicycle Coalition is a sponsor of this bill. This bill passed the Assembly on May 16. It’s currently in the Senate Transportation & Housing Committee. I support AB 345.

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6 Comments

  • didrik
    June 3, 2011 - 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I think the bit about being able to cross the double yellow in order to pass safely is a good thing. Odd that someone can’t make that reasonable judgment on their own.
    We’ve all experienced the drivers that won’t cross the double yellow–with no cars in the other lane–when they pass a cyclist, but will easily cross the double yellow to give a crumpled cardboard box on the side of the road at least 12′ clearance. What’s up with that?

  • June 3, 2011 - 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Agreed about the yellow line. I live in the hills and drivers cross the yellow centerline to pass me safely pretty consistently.

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  • Chris Morfas
    July 19, 2011 - 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your coverage. The definition of substandard width lane included in SB910 has long been a part of section 21202 of the California Vehicle Code. It is the statutory clause that empowers us to “take the lane” when necessary. Chris Morfas, President, California Bicycle Coalition

  • July 19, 2011 - 4:43 pm | Permalink

    THanks for the comment, Chris. You’re correct, CVC 21202 defines substandard lane width as well.

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