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Lawmakers see penalty gap, decline to fix it
A bill to close a gap in traffic penalties that would help protect vulnerable road users failed to win enough votes in the Assembly Transportation Committee this month, leaving the bill dead for this legislative session.
Assembly Bill 1951, authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and sponsored by CBC, seeks to provide greater justice for bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users by toughening existing penalties for injuring someone while failing to stop or yield, turning illegally or violating other basic rules of the road.
Under current law, injuring someone by ignoring the speed limit is a misdemeanor punishable with a $145 fine and a jail sentence, whereas injuring someone by ignoring a stop sign or violating another basic rule of the road is an infraction punishable with a $70-$95 fine. AB 1951 raises the fine to a minimum of $145, adds an optional jail sentence, and allows for violations to be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor.
Even the bill's only known opponent, the California District Attorneys Association, acknowledged the need for the bill. During the hearing, the CDAA representative noted that a gap exists between injury-causing infractions that often go unpunished and criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter. CDAA, however, opposes criminalizing more traffic violations.
"We expected this opposition, so our work continues," said CBC Executive Director David Hoffman. "Too many lawmakers still believe drivers shouldn't be held accountable for their choices behind the wheel, even when those choices leave someone injured.
"Why is it a crime to injure someone by ignoring the posted speed limit and not a crime to injure someone by making a prohibited right turn?" said Hoffman. "To insist on a difference is absurd, not to mention insulting to injured victims. As more people get around by means other than single-occupancy cars, this problem is just going to get worse."
SF intersection camera bill moves ahead
San Francisco moved closer to being able to install a camera to monitor one of the city's most dangerous intersections for bicyclists.
The Assembly Transportation Committee this month approved Assembly Bill 2729
that would allow San Francisco to install a camera to help deter drivers from making a prohibited right turn from eastbound Market Street onto the Central Freeway at Octavia Street. The bill is authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.
During the committee hearing, the bill was amended to make the camera installation a 3-year pilot study.
Looking east on Market St. at Octavia St.Even though the intersection is engineered and marked to prevent right turns from eastbound Market onto southbound Octavia, eastbound drivers continue to make prohibited right turns. Bicyclists and pedestrians are frequently struck by cars and trucks making the illegal turn.
Legislation is needed to create the pilot study because existing law is interpreted to limit the use of cameras to monitoring stop light violations.
|Traffic control devices|
Caltrans bike box hits a roadblock
A Caltrans proposal to install a bike box in a downtown San Luis Obispo intersection was rejected this month by the Caltrans committee that sets standards for traffic signs, signals and pavement markings.
On April 15 the California Traffic Control Devices Committee concluded that San Luis Obispo-based Caltrans District 5 failed to demonstrate a need for the bike box and also failed to propose adequate ways to measure its performance.
The CTCDC recommended that the district seek approval from the Federal Highway Administration to install the box as an experimental traffic control device. The CTCDC's membership does not include bicyclists.
The box would have been the first installed by Caltrans on a state highway. Bike boxes are already in use in San Francisco and Long Beach as well as major U.S. cities outside California. CBC and many local bicycle advocacy organizations around the state urged approval of the Caltrans bike box.
|National bike news|
National support grows for biking and walking
U.S.Transportation Secretary Ray LaHoodDuring remarks made immediately following last month's National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood repeated his call for giving bicycling and walking equal consideration to motorized transportation when spending federal funds on state and local transportation projects.
His comments drew praise from bike-ped advocates and scorn from critics who blasted his position as "radical," "delusional" and "Maoist."
In an interview earlier this month, the former Republican congressman told a New York Times blogger he was simply expressing what Americans want.
In a recent nationwide poll 59% of respondents said they wanted to see expanded public transportation and greater use of biking and walking to relieve traffic congestion. The national poll was commissioned by Transportation for America, a coalition advocating for federal transportation policies that support biking, walking and transit.
Bikes Belong, a national advocacy organization representing bicycle manufacturers and retailers, has launched People for Bikes, a campaign to enlist one million bicyclists to help advocate for increased federal funding for bicycle facilities.
|Around the state|
The new home for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame opened this month in Davis. Relocated from Somerville, New Jersey, the hall of fame honors top competitive cyclists and others who have made lasting contributions to bicycling. The hall shares a building with the California Bicycle Museum, which houses part of UC Davis's extensive Pierce Miller collection of antique bicycles.
The Fresno County Bicycle Coalition and City of Fresno are promoting the joys of bicycling in Fresno with a new video public service announcement entitled Biking = Joy. The two partners, along with county and regional government agencies and businesses, have joined forces to make the Fresno region more bike friendly. The city is currently completing a bicycle master plan that's being called one of the state's most comprehensive and progressive.
Watch out, Portland! Long Beach announces its intention to become the most bike-friendly city in America in a new video that showcases recent bicycle improvements and the enthusiasm of local public officials, business owners and residents. Like Portland, whose status as a bicycling mecca owes to progressive city policies and strong leadership going back more than 35 years, Long Beach is being led by a mayor and city council who have made bike-friendliness a top civic priority.
Read more about CBC's 2009-2010 board of directors.
One farewell, two welcomes
Vince O'Brien is stepping down from the CBC Board of Directors after many years of service to statewide bike advocacy. He continues to serve on the board of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, where he heads up the coalition's major donor committee. O'Brien is a Harvard-educated economist and managing partner of OSKR in Emeryville.
Andrew Casteel, executive director of the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition since 2008, joined the CBC board in late January. He's a graduate of California Institute of Technology and holds a masters degree in education from UC Santa Barbara. He worked for six years in education as a teacher, mentor coordinator and grant writer for the Sequoia Union High School District in Redwood City.
currently serves on the board for the League of American Bicyclists. She's a former bicycle retailer and city transportation coordinator, and she has a background in organization development as well as extensive experience serving on local, regional and national boards and bicycle advisory committees. The CBC board's newest member is Amanda Eichstaedt of Olema in Marin County. Eichstaedt
|Bicycling and the law|
I regularly ride across the "top" of a T intersection with the intersecting road on my left and stop signs in all directions. Since there's no cross traffic in my direction, do I still have to stop?
What the law says: California Vehicle Code Section 22450(a) requires a vehicle in an intersection marked by a stop sign to stop either at the white line crossing the lane - known as the "limit line" - or at the crosswalk at the near edge of the intersection. If there is no limit line or crosswalk, the vehicle must stop at the entrance to the intersection.
The rest of the story: Under California law, bicyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as motorists, including the responsibility to obey the laws that govern when and where vehicles must stop. State law is unambiguous: if there's a stop sign, you must stop at it.
This may not seem to make practical sense in the situation you describe, since there is no traffic crossing your path of travel. But consider the hazards of not stopping.
You could startle a driver who enters the intersection expecting everyone else to stop - that startled driver's response could cause a collision. You're vulnerable to a driver who swings wide while turning left from the intersecting road, makes a U-turn from the lane facing you, or, like you, simply decides not to stop. You also risk hitting a pedestrian crossing the intersection.
In any of these scenarios you'd only have an instant to respond, a situation every bicyclist wants to avoid. That's the practical reason for stopping: it gives you time to choose when and how you want to proceed. (It also spares you from an expensive traffic citation for failing to stop.)
The takeaway: Obeying stop signs keeps you safe and helps protect others on the road. Bicyclists who ignore this and other basic rules of the road not only endanger themselves and others, but they make it hard for advocacy organizations like CBC to see that motorists are held accountable for unsafe and unlawful behavior. That further complicates efforts to defend the legal rights of bicyclists as equal users of the road.
Do you have a legal question you'd like to see answered in the CalBike Report? Contact us!
Many thanks to CBC board member and bicycle attorney Gary Brustin for reviewing this article.
San DiegoTraffic Skills 101 (Class), Tues., May 11
Traffic Skills 101 (Street), Sun., May 16
Traffic Skills 101 (Class), Tues., June 8
Traffic Skills 101 (Street), Sun., June 13
Intro to Safe Cycling (Class), Sun., May 9
Street Skills Primer (Road), Sat., May 8
Street Skills Primer (Road), Sat., June 12
Street Skills Primer (Road), Sat., July 10
A benefit for YMCA Cambria Teen Center
Sponsored by the Davis Bike Club
Eureka to San Francisco
A benefit for Rails to Trail Conservancy, 1Sky and Green America
Sponsored by the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition
Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Sponsored by Grizzly Peak Cyclists
A benefit for American Diabetes Foundation
San Francisco to Los Angeles
San Luis Obispo
Co-produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay & Lesbian Center
A benefit for San Luis Obispo ALPHA
Find a full calendar of rides throughout California at Bikelink.