Game-Changing New Laws for California Bicyclists and Pedestrians
Written by Maison Law
As the cycling community continues to boom, the California legislative community has responded with some important legal updates. From stop signs to e-bikes, the state of California is making important reforms to try to reduce the accident rate among California cyclists and pedestrians.
AB 122 Re-Defines Stop Signs for Cali Cyclists
You don't need to go to Driver's Ed to learn what you should do when you reach a stop sign. However, with the passage of AB 122, Californian motorists may need a refresher course on this fundamental law of the road. Under this newly passed bill, California cyclists have the right to treat stop signs as "yield."
Supporters of this law claim it will help cyclists clear potentially dangerous intersections more quickly. Allegedly, the less time spent at these traffic-prone areas, the less likely there will be cyclist crashes. However, not everyone in the cyclist community is sold on this new law. For instance, groups like Berkeley's Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative are concerned younger riders will use AB 122 as an excuse to run through stop signs.
On a positive note, states that have adopted policies similar to California's AB 122 seem to have an overall reduction in cyclist fatalities. For instance, data from Delaware suggests cyclist crashes are down by over 20 percent roughly 30 months after putting their "yield" policy into place. Researchers at DePaul University also claim this "yield" standard is safer for cyclists.
CA's "Freedom to Walk" Act Repeals Jaywalking Restrictions
Another big transportation bill that recently passed the CA State Senate was the "Freedom To Walk" Act (AB 1238). As this law's title suggests, "Freedom To Walk" removes most of the fines associated with jaywalking. Specifically, this allows the state's pedestrians to make mid-block crossings or walk against traffic lights when it's safe to do so.
While this law isn't directed at cyclists per se, it has enjoyed significant support from cyclist advocacy organizations. Many groups like CalBike appreciate this law's focus on encouraging green forms of transportation. Bill supporters also claim AB 1238 may reduce the over-policing of economically disadvantaged communities. According to advocates, jaywalking laws are often used as a pretext to penalize people living in areas with poor infrastructure.
Just keep in mind the text of AB 1238 doesn't include anything new for bicyclists. However, it's worthwhile keeping a close eye on this new precedent to see if it affects the cyclist community.
E-Bike Concerns Encourage a Refresher Course on Cali's Classifications
Rentable e-bikes are becoming a common sight in California's biggest cities, including San Diego. Indeed, just a few months ago, the Encinitas City Council said it would allow 100 new e-bikes onto its streets.
Predictably, these new e-bikes have raised a lot of questions from community members. Just how old do you have to be to ride an e-bike? Are these devices treated similarly to regular bicycles? Do riders have to wear a helmet?
Thankfully, California has robust legal statutes on e-bikes. Although AB 1096 separates e-bikes into three categories, all of these units should be treated similarly to bicycles. The only slight exception would be type 3 e-bikes, which could reach 28 mph. Anyone who rides these faster e-bikes must be over 16 and wear a helmet. All other cyclists only need to wear a helmet if they're under 18.
It's also worth pointing out that e-bikes are not the same as mopeds. If you need a refresher course in these two vehicle types, it's a good idea to check out CA DMV's official list.
How Could Cali's Cyclists Evolve in the Upcoming Years?
California is never content with the status quo—and that includes bicyclist protocols. The only thing that's certain about California's cycling legislation is that it will evolve in the ensuing years. For instance, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, some legislators have begun researching how helmet laws disproportionately affect minority communities. Also, as the number of California bicyclists swells, it may encourage legislators to increase cyclist infrastructure spending. No question, it has never been more crucial for California cyclists to follow their state's latest legal developments.
Maison Law (www.maisonlaw.com) is a personal injury law firm that represents injured clients throughout the state of California. Maison Law was founded by Martin Gasparian who is an advocate for bicycle safety in the communities that he serves. Maison Law routinely examines the implementation of safety measures in California and has published multiple studies on accident rates and fatality trends over the past several years.