California Bicycle Law Update: Positive Developments In The Works For Californians

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2023 | Bicycle Accidents, Bicycling |

1) Safe Sidewalk Riding
AB 825, Bryan:

Existing law allows local governments to adopt laws regarding the operation of bicycles on public sidewalks. In some cities and municipalities, riding on sidewalks is permitted, in others, only in some areas, and sometimes only for children, while in others, riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is simply prohibited. Apart from the lack of uniformity, these differences also don’t logically serve any legitimate safety issues – either for cyclists OR pedestrians.

Despite some opposition, this bill is moving forward. It would prohibit a local authority from prohibiting the operation of a bicycle on sidewalks along roads that don’t have a designated bike lane, but would require bicyclist on a sidewalk to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and observe a 10-miles-per-hour speed limit.

Of course, a bicyclist who wants to travel faster than 10 MPH can still use the roadway, but if this bill becomes law, it will improve safety for bicyclists, and help the flow of auto traffic on roadways lacking bicycle lanes.

2) Bicycle Safety Stop
AB 73, Boerner:

This will be California’s third opportunity to join the increasing number of states that have improved safety for bicyclists and automobiles alike through a common sense and real world solution by allowing people on bikes to treat stop signs as yields.

It’s not a question whether the Legislature will pass this bill – it has already done so TWICE. The question is whether Governor Newsom will veto it yet again. Gov. Newsome’s veto in the past has been based on safety MIS-perceptions and MIS-information arguing the measure would reduce safety when concrete studies, the experience of over a half-dozen other states, and some simple common sense (again) is all to the contrary.

This bill would NOT allow bicyclists to treat a red traffic signal as a stop sign (that is, bicyclists would still need to wait for a traffic light to turn green (this is unlike Idaho’s law, which allows cyclists to both treat a stop sign as a yield AND a stop light as a stop sign), but would allow bicyclists to slow at stop signs, stop if necessary, and proceed with care if the way is clear.

Eight States (Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) have similar laws, and in 2018, Colorado passed a law allowing local municipalities to adopt such measures.

In the six years after Delaware legalized stop-as-yield for bikes, police there reported that bike-involved crashes went down, most notably at intersections (-23%!). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a fact sheet in 2022, demonstrating the objective safety of stop-as-yield laws. And there are no studies or real-world data validating any of the safety concerns Gov. Newsome and this bill’s opponents have relied on.

Bicyclist stop-as-yield laws allow cyclists to mitigate their own risk, increase bicyclist’s visibility to drivers and reduce bicyclists’ exposure to harm from automobiles.

Research has shown that pedestrians and bicyclists both exercise more care and attention before crossing red signals than green, meaning when treating a stop sign as a yield, bicyclists will be MORE attentive to safety when doing so. And a Tampa Bay, Florida study found that bicyclists were more highly compliant with general traffic rules (88.1% in the daytime, 87.5% at night) than other roadway users. In contrast, automobile drivers were mostly NON-compliant with the law requiring that drivers yield to bicyclists’ right-of-way. So again, this bill would allow California bicyclists to mitigate their own risk against auto drivers that either don’t understand their legal obligations around bicyclists, or just don’t care.

And for automobile drivers (which most bicyclists are sometimes as well), when bicyclists can maintain a safe but precautionary momentum through an intersection, it will facilitate automobile traffic flow on California’s roads.