California legislative update

Mid August 2011 update of what’s going on in the California legislature of issues that might be of interest to cyclists.

Joe Breeze Design California Republic

  • SB 28: Cell phone use banned for cyclists. The California Senate passed Joe Simitian’s cell phone bill which criminalizes mobile device use for cyclists while also increasing fines for drivers who are caught chatting or texting while driving. Hands free use (e.g. by using an earpiece) will remain legal. It goes to Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature.
  • Assembly Bill 529: Speed limit law. 43rd District Assemblyman Mike Gatto from Los Angeles introduced AB 529, a bill that modifies California’s infamous 85th percentile speed limit law to give state and local authorities greater flexibility in setting speed limits on roads under their jurisdictions. Currently, California law says cities must round speed limits up to the nearest 5 MPH increment from the 85th percentile speed as measured in traffic surveys. AB 529 allows local authorities and the state to round down to the nearest 5 MPH increment as well.

    AB 529 passed the Assembly with a unamimous vote and has been read in the Senate. Cities of El Cajon, Glendale, Lemoore, Long Beach, Pasadena, Santa Rosa, and Thousand Oaks all support AB 529 along with Glendale Police Department, League of California Cities, Peace Officers Research Association of California, and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. I’m surprised I don’t see livable streets advocates on this list. Caltrans has registered their opposition, mostly because of their engineering studies which demonstrate driving speed isn’t determined by the speed limit but on how fast the road feels. When you engineer a residential street to feel like a superhighway, people will drive at superhighway speeds. Caltrans says the most effective way to reduce driving speed is through traffic calming engineering.

  • SB 910: Three foot passing. Senator Lowenthal’s three foot passing bill passed the Senate on June 1 and squeezed past committee hearings to make it to the Assembly floor, where it awaits a third reading.
  • SB 105: Helmets for snow sports. Senator Yee’s bill mandates helmets while downhill skiing or snowboarding for everybody under age 18. This bill has passed the Assembly and Senate and awaits a concurrence vote in the Senate.
  • AB 1298: Mobile advertising. Because bicycles are explicitly defined as “devices” instead of “vehicles” under California law, advertisers have attached billboards to pedal powered vehicles to circumvent regulations. Assembly Bill 1298 gives local governments authority to regulate mobile advertising on bicycles, among other things. Passed Assembly, awaits a vote in the Senate.
  • AB 695: Motorcycle helmet exemptions. Helmets are mandatory for motorcycle riders in California. AB 695 would exempt riders who take a motorcycle safety course from this helmet requirement. It languishes in committee, with bike advocate hero Lowenthal among those blocking this bill.


  1. Other than AB 529, which might make some sense, a bunch of stupid stuff.  Was really surprised that the Gov vetoed SB 582.  I think the sponsor assumed a little too much in terms of the Gov’s office and didnt’ do the job explaining the bill to the Gov’s staff.  For cyclists, I think it was the best bill of the session – and I say that as a conservative.

  2. Minor note on the cellphone ban.  The Sacramento Bee and others mistakenly referred to this as SB 28.  It is, in fact, SB 1475.  SB 28 is the original legislation passed in 2008, and 1475 is Simitian’s amendment.

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