Two new bike bills in the California legislature

Through the process known as “gut and amend,” two new bills that may affect cycling in the Golden State are on the legislative agenda for 2013.

A poison pill for the 710?

The first is Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 811 to force Caltrans to include public transportation and Complete Streets elements in any changes to Highway 710 in Los Angeles, along with significant requirements for job training, workforce development, and targeted hiring activities.

Explosive growth in cargo volumes at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have resulted in a constant slow parade of trucks on Highway 710, known locally as the Long Beach Freeway. The working class residential neighborhoods that line the 710 are nicknamed “cancer alley” and have the among the highest child asthma rates in the nation. Caltrans and local transportation agencies are in the process of studying ways to “improve” this freeway to more efficiently move more trucks and cars between Pasadena and the railyards of Vernon and East L.A.

SB 811, as currently amended, requires Caltrans to develop and implement a comprehensive public transportation plan for the Highway 710 corridor, and to create and implement comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle improvements in order to help address some adverse affects any freeway expansion would have on the residents who live near this smog-choked freeway.

When I showed the text of SB 811 to Ted, he suggested this might be an attempt to derail the 710 project, which is unpopular with many constituents represented by Lara.

California Greenway Initiative

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez’s AB 735 would establish a statewide Greenway Initiative to promote the development of greenways along rivers in Califonria, including the development of a greenway along the Los Angeles River. A “greenway” is defined in this bill as a “a pedestrian and bicycle, non-motorized vehicle transportation, and recreational travel corridor … that is separated and protected from shared roadways that parallels an urban waterway and incorporates ease of access to adjacent communities … [and] reflects design standards with appropriate widths, clearances, and setbacks from obstructions, and centerlines protecting directional travel.”

In other words, Gomez would encourage the development of what the Dutch call “bicycle superhighways.” Under AB 735, a local government could declare a river corridor to officially be a “Greenway” and magical things can happen afterwards, though I’m honestly fuzzy on the specifics of how that would happen.

Gut and amend

Gut and amend is the process by which California legislators completely rewrite a bill that was introduced months earlier. SB 811, for example, was introduced as a bill that would make “nonsubstantive changes” to the law that authorizes the California Highway Commission. Stephen Bradford’s 3 foot passing law for cyclists started out as a “nonsubstantive change” to the wording of the state law that prohibits a type of business licenses against certain non-profit organizations.

The cynic might interpret these gut and amend procedures as an end-run around the democratic process. People like me who follow such things typically look for bicycle related bills after the deadline to submit bills passes in February. I’ve learned to monitor things a little more closely after learning of this process a couple of years ago, and I still get caught by surprise as do even professional lobbyists.

It’s possible for a bill to be radically amended and pass through both chambers and land on the governor’s desk before the amended text of the bill makes it into the online legislative database. A small, bipartisan group of legislators now wants to amend the constitution to prevent such legislative shenanigans. Read more about this process and the proposed amendment at the Capitol Alert blog. Hearings on this amendment begin Tuesday.


  1. As for the 710, I and a good number of other folks are working on a far better solution than freeway expansion or even closer-in railyards (SCIG): We envision an integrated crane and container sorting facility loading boxes directly form ships to waiting trains, and sending said trains either through the Alameda Corridor or the project’s own underground electric rail system, getting freight through the city cleanly and quietly, without taking up much land. Later evolution of the project (if we can get it going) would include bike greenways, an LRT line, an dTOD villages.

    Check out GRID (Green Rail, Intelligent Development) at:

    This would be very good for cyclists in a number of ways–reducing truck traffic on local streets being just the start.

  2. Richard, I’ve never heard of GRID. Sounds like an interesting way to maximize on-dock rail. The LA City Council will vote on SCIG at their meeting on May 8.

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