Santa Clara County to vote on bike restrictions

Update 8/25/2010: The Santa Clara County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and cycling event organizers met with San Antonio Valley residents for a roundtable discussion. These two groups together worked out compromise language for the Special Events ordinance that are acceptable to both groups. The important changes:

  • Under the San Antonio Valley “Good Neighbor” Standards, the first standard previously stated: “Allow a motor vehicle to safely and cautiously pass an event occurring on San Antonio Roads.” The first standard now states: “All users of the road should be cautious of one another and operate motorized and non-motorized vehicles safely.”
  • Large group events in which participants obey all traffic regulations
    and controls are now encouraged, rather than required, to provide notice of an event. This applies to charity rides, and charity ride organizers and San Antonio Road residents agreed this is a workable compromise for them.


Update 6/22/2010: At this morning’s meeting, the Santa Clara County Supervisors decided to delay a decision on the Special Events Ordinance until July.

Supervisor vote Tuesday morning; Proposed County Ordinance NS-502.8 places restrictions on large group rides.

A proposed county ordinance to mandate special event permits and insurance for ‘events’ on Santa Clara County public roads threatens cycling events — including larger group club rides, charity rides, and possibly San Jose Bike Party. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, which was able to remove this measure from the county supervisor agenda in 2008, is asking Santa Clara County residents to contact your County Supervisor to express your views on this measure. THE VOTE TAKES PLACE DURING THE SUPERVISORS’ MEETING ON TUESDAY, JUNE 22 2010.

The ordinance

Proposed ordinance NS-502.8 will require permits for “a parade, march, procession, demonstration, or assembly consisting of fifty or more persons, animals, vehicles, or any combination thereof, which is to assemble on a Road or travel in unison on a Road which … is likely to impede, obstruct, impair, or require closure of a Road; or … any event on a Road involving more than 500 people.

Bike rides of under 200 people are specifically exempted from the permit requirement, although the Director of County Roads & Airports Department must be notified at least 48 hours before the ride.

The County does not define what a “parade, march, procession, demonstration, or assembly” is, although the ordinance was crafted directly in response to complaints about large numbers of cyclists in the San Antonio Valley area east of Mount Hamilton. (I’m curious if the County would require permits for the large traffic assemblages of well over 500 people that impede, obstruct, and impair county roads every single weekday morning and evening that employers knowingly plan for with their hours of business.)

San Antonio Valley

Two years ago, a similar measure came up for discussion by the County Supervisors Roads & Airports committee when residents in San Antonio Valley complained of the constant stream of cyclists during event such as the Mount Hamilton Challenge and Devil Mountain Double. While the current proposal addresses some of the concerns raised by Bay Area cyclists, a section of the proposed ordinance contains a full page of text on San Antonio Valley “Good Neighbor” Standards, placing additional conditions on events that pass through San Antonio Valley. This section describes the rural character of San Antonio Valley, noting “San Antonio Roads are the only access roads available to San Antonio Valley residents and visitors, fire protection and law enforcement services, and emergency medical responders,” disingenuously hinting some horrendous tragedy might — might! — come to pass because hordes of cyclists impeded the passage of emergency response. (If they’re so afraid in their remote location, consider moving a little closer to town. All vehicles — including cyclists! — are already required to move to the side of the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass, and bikes are much easier to pass than cars, trucks and horse trailers.)

Contact your County Supervisor

To find your Santa Clara District, enter your home address here, then click on the link at “This is YOUR Supervisorial District.”

The San Antonio Valley area is represented by District 5 County Supervisor Liz Kniss.

Keep your talking points short and simple. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition suggests the ordinance wording is vague and probably in violation of the California Vehicle Code. Chris suggests the law targets the wrong people (it’s all those other people who are scofflaws, not me!), and is unnecessary given existing traffic code. An email I saw suggests that enforcing this ordinance will put an unnecessary burden on already tight county resources.

& cetera

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition: Santa Clara County Special Event Ordinance threatens cycling events

NS-502.8 text [PDF].

The California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO) sent a letter to the Santa Clara County Board Supervisors outlining their concerns with the proposed NS-502.8 ordinance. Below is the text of CABO’s response. I love that their note that “Major Special Events” could also describe movie start times, sporting events, and even work commutes.

The California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO) is a nonprofit group of clubs and organizations, including thousands of cyclists, dedicated to the improvement of conditions for all cyclists in California. For over 30 years, CABO has worked with Caltrans and other executive agencies, the state legislature, and local governments to provide a better bicycling environment in the state.

We have reviewed the proposed Special Event Ordinance (Chapter VII, Division B3). It is the position of CABO that there is a fundamental flaw with the proposed ordinance: The portions of the ordinance regulating “Minor Special Events” are unenforceable.

The county does have the authority to regulate events which require road closures, or which encroach on the public way, such as the Tour of California bicycle race. But the county does not have the express authority (per California Vehicle Code § 21) to override the CVC and require permits or public notification or event insurance for legal use of open, public roads. An outline of this position is attached.

Furthermore, “Any event on a Road involving more than 500 people” (under “Major Special Event”) is overly broad and would describe many legal uses of open, public roads which the county does not have the authority to regulate.

We also have concerns about some of the wording. For example the description of a group which obeys all traffic controls and yet “does not … get in the way” is in conflict with the basic rules governing the assignment of right of way.

CABO does not discount the county’s concerns about traffic on open, public roads. There are times when the volume of legal traffic on some public roads is higher than usual because of many kinds of events, both organized (i.e. people driving to or from sporting events, shows, movies, etc.) and individual (i.e. people driving to or from work). It is CABO’s position that these concerns should be handled through enforcement of existing traffic laws.

For example, CVC 21656 describes rules when traffic is unable to pass on two-lane roads. And CVC 22350 (the Basic Speed Law) regulates traffic traveling too fast for conditions.

Summary of the express authority to regulate bicycling:

CVC section summaries [CVC language in “quotes”]:

1. Section 21200 defines the rights and duties of bicyclists as being the same as drivers of vehicles.

2. Section 21: “Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of this code are applicable and uniform throughout the State and in all counties and municipalities therein, and no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein.”

3. Section 21100 (h) Expressly authorizes local authorities to regulate the use of bicycles on public sidewalks

4. Section 21206 Expressly authorizes local agencies to regulate the registration, and the parking and operation of bicycles on pedestrian or bicycle facilities provided the regulation is not in conflict with the CVC.

5. Section 21960 Expressly authorizes local agency prohibition of bicycling or walking on freeways.

6. There are no codes providing express authorization of municipalities to regulate cycling on non-freeway roads.

7. Supportive legal opinions & appellate court ruling:

    a. Attorney General’s opinion: 52 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 313, 314 (1970) cited Wilton v. Henkin (1942), 52 Cal.App.2nd 368, 372 which affirmed the superiority of state legislation for traffic regulation over local ordinances.

    b. The court in Flury v. Beeskau (1934) 33 P.2nd 1033, 1036, 139 Cal.App. 398, stated that “A bicycle or motorcycle is recognized as a legitimate means of traveling upon the highways or streets of a city either for business or pleasure. The traffic rules which are prescribed by the California Vehicle Act apply to bicycles and motorcycles as well as to automobiles and other vehicles.”

Since the county has no express authority to regulate cycling on non-freeway roads as required by CVC 21, the proposed ordinance is in conflict with the CVC and is unenforceable.


  1. …modern society is big business, mister & we'll not have anyone enjoying themselves, dammit…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.