Four bills that affect California cyclists

Proposed laws include agency immunity from liability on any street with bike lanes; CEQA exemption for bike plans

The deadline to submit bills for the 2013 legislative session passed last Friday. Among the 2200 bills submitted by our representatives since the legislative year began, I’ve listed the bills I found that directly affect cyclists in California.

Sacramento Bus with bike rack

Bigger bike racks on city buses, but only for Sacramento. AB 206 allows Sacramento buses to carry bike racks with a capacity for 3 bikes, instead of the 2 bike racks currently in use. Current California law limits fold down bike racks on the front of buses to 36 inches. Roger “No Relation To Bruce” Dickinson’s AB 206 extends this to 40 inches for Sacramento Regional Transit District. The 2 bike racks used by most transit agencies fit within the 36 inch limit, while 3 bike racks can extend 40 inches from the front of the bus. California Vehicle Code 35400, which defines maximum allowable lengths for city buses and bike racks, already has similar exceptions for Alameda – Contra Costa County Transit and Gold Coast Transit.

CEQA exemption for urban bike plans. AB 417 by Jim Frazier exempts urban bicycle plans from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. This expands the exemption that some bike lanes now have from CEQA review. While Los Angeles has been aggressive with bike projects using the the AB 2245 CEQA exemption, planner Christopher Kidd tells me that San Francisco Bay Area cities have been reluctant to move forward because of the ambiguous requirements about traffic studies in the current law. AB 417 removes the traffic studies requirement and extends the CEQA back from a specific project back to the planning phase, so a city can exempt all bike projects from CEQA requirements in one fell swoop.

Bicyclists Begin BIke Lane Here

Immunity from bike lane injuries. AB 738 from Diane Harkey of Orange County provides immunity for public entities and their employees “for an injury caused to a person riding a bicycle” while that person travels on a roadway with a bike lane. The immunity applies whether the cyclist is in the bike lane or not. Currently, public agencies and employees already have fairly broad “design immunity” under California Government Code 830.6, according to transportation engineer Bob Shanteau of the California Assocation of Bicycle Organizations (CABO). State and local bike advocacy groups are already gearing up to fight this bill

Bicycle questions on the drivers license test. Tom Ammanio of San Francisco introduced AB 840, which adds a requirement that the driver’s license test include “a test of the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the provisions of the California Driver Handbook relating to bicycling, including, but not limited to, bicycle markings, bicycle lanes, and bicycles in travel lanes.” Is that cool, or what?


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  • February 25, 2013 - 10:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the roundup, Richard.

  • Lyle
    February 25, 2013 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Butte and Glenn County buses all have capacity for three bikes on their racks.

  • February 25, 2013 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Several transit agencies in California have 3-bike racks. I measured the racks in Santa Cruz — they’re all 3 bike racks, but some fall within the 36 inch limit required by law, some protrude as far as 42 inches out from the bumper.

    According to SportWorks (which manufactures the bike racks), this is an installation issue. The racks themselves are 30 inches wide.

    Still, I know some agencies are reluctant to go to the 3 bike racks because they say they state law limits their installation.

  • February 25, 2013 - 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I was in Seattle recently and they have 3-bike racks. Would love to see this in San Mateo County and on more buses in Santa Clara county.

  • February 25, 2013 - 2:13 pm | Permalink

    so 3 good ones and one bad one but the bad one is really bad….

  • Prinzrob
    February 25, 2013 - 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I like AB 830 in theory, but the California Driver Handbook they will be taking the test questions from has some significant errors and misrepresentations of the CVC. I’d like to see them give some bike advocacy organizations a pass at it before initiating the test questions (and for that matter, an update to the handbook).

  • February 25, 2013 - 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see Diane Harkey’s contribution to this list was to solicit even greater immunity for government agencies. Strange how a Republican that hates the public unions so much would be such a strong advocate for their immunity from prosecution for wrongdoing.

  • February 25, 2013 - 5:22 pm | Permalink

    There’s some speculation that a $49M settlement with the city of Dana Point may have been the impetus for this bill.

  • February 25, 2013 - 6:30 pm | Permalink

    There is no doubt in my mind the $49M settlement is what made Harkey push for even greater immunity for wrongdoing state agencies. I expect the battle over this bill to reach epic proportion since Orange County is home to a significant number of cyclists both pro and recreational.

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