Joe Simitian To Outlaw Pandas

California 11th Senate District Senator Joe Simitian from San Mateo County, California, could outlaw certain so-called “Panda Portraits” with Senate Bill 1310, which would ban the use of electronic wireless communication devices while riding a bicycle.

Panda Portraits are self portraits taken while on a moving bicycle, like so:

10mm Panda Portrait

Many Panda Portraits are shot using the “electronic wireless communication devices,” e.g. mobile phones with built in cameras. Senator Simitian wants police to fine you $20 to $30 if they catch you using a cell phone while riding a bicycle.

Cyclists have differing opinions on this issue. The California Bicycle Coalition is ‘meh’ on the issue, which believes distracted cyclists don’t cause the damage that distracted drivers do. Cyclists associated with the California Association of Bicycle Organizations, however, believe strongly in the philosophy of equality (i.e. “Same Roads – Same Rights – Same Rules”) and support laws that bring parity by imposing vehicular restrictions on cyclists.

SB 1310 is a redo of SB 28, which Governor Jerry Brown vetoed last year. Besides the Panda Prohibition, other provisions of SB 1310 include:

  • Increased fines for motorists caught talking on the phone;
  • Assessing points against a drivers license for multiple violations (cyclists are exempted from this);
  • DMV required to include test questions about distracted driving on drivers license exam;
  • Establish a Distracted Driver Education Fund using money received from cell phone use.

The Senate Transportation & Housing Committee approved SB 1310 on March 27, where Republican Senator Ted Gaines was the only “nay” vote, and referred it to the Appropriations Committee for their look-see.

Thank you to Jenny for the tip.


  1. As far as the rules of the road are concerned, bicyclists are already subject to the same rights and duties as drivers of vehicles:

    “CVC 21200(a)
    A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all
    the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the
    driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to,
    provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages
    or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), Section
    27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000), Division 17
    (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18 (commencing with
    Section 42000), except those provisions which by their very nature can
    have no application.”Some rules of the road, however, apply only to drivers of motor vehicles, such as the cell phone ban:”CVC 23123(a)
    A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless
    telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured
    to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner
    while driving.”So the current ban is on drivers of motor vehicles but not on drivers of vehicles (there is a difference). Basically, SB 1310 would simply extend the ban from drivers of motor vehicles to drivers of all vehicles, including bicycles. Makes ultimate sense to me.

  2. Right, but cyclists were accidentally exempted by the current version of the law (also authored by Simitian) because it says “a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone….”

  3. Uh, I find the statement that the Calif. Assoc. of Bicycling Organizations “… support laws that bring parity by imposing vehicular restrictions on cyclists.” to be a distortion of what CABO supports. More accurately, CABO ” … supports laws that provide bicyclists with equal rights and responsibilities of vehicle operators.” The Calif. Vehicle Code 21200 requires it, but bicyclist’s rights are too often overlooked, misunderstood, and/or violated, reducing the ability for many of us to choose bicycling for more of our travels. Along with rights come responsibilties.
    Jim Baross, CABO President

  4. It is also worth noting that phone use is much more visible when a cyclist is doing it, as opposed to a driver hidden inside a car. I wonder if this will lead to more cyclists being cited for breaking this law, disproportionate to the number of violations across modes. Not that I condone cell phone use while moving, and personally always pull over to take a call when driving or biking.

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