With Optimism from 2014 Wins, California Bicycle Coalition Sets Ambitious 2015 Agenda
More money for complete bike networks, sensible regulations for electric bikes, and clarification of the Vehicle Code top the 2015 legislative agenda for the California Bicycle Coalition. After extensive outreach to California’s bicyclists and local advocacy leaders, our 2015 legislative agenda, as approved by our Board of Directors, will be formally announced at an event tomorrow in Sacramento, where Deputy Secretary of Transportation Kate White will share her perspective on our goals and the role that bicycles play in the state’s goals for sustainability in transportation.
More Money for Complete Bike Networks
Now that we’ve won official approval for protected bike lanes and are working to promote them statewide, we can turn our attention in Sacramento to winning funding to build better bikeways. Our goal with this funding is to spur the development of complete bicycle networks in communities throughout the state. Administered by the state, the program would provide large annual grants ($25 to $50 million) to help localities build sets of improvements to drastically improve connectivity in their bike networks.
By offering competitive grants, the program will foster new “big picture” planning. Rather than focusing on specific intersections or paths, localities will have to think about creating “low-stress” grids of bicycle facilities that serve everyone in the community. Planners from NACTO to the FHWA to the U.S. DOT have identified the bicycle network as the new frontier in bike planning. These unbroken webs of bike paths, protected bike lanes on busy streets, and quiet bicycle boulevards connect every destination in a community.
This program will increase the amount of state and federal funding for biking, but its impact will be more dramatic. By requiring the development of complete network plans, communities that don’t win this funding will nevertheless have created a thoroughly analyzed program of improvements. These plans will give communities the opportunity to apply political pressure to fund the network as a whole, rather than piecemeal, as is currently the practice.
Next steps include working with our allies to identify the appropriate source of funds for this program, and marshaling the power with a majority of legislators to win what will surely be a huge battle.
Sensible Regulations and More Funding for Electric Bicycles
Electric-assisted bikes extend the joys of biking to more people, especially senior citizens, parents with children, people with disabilities and people whose trips involve steep hills or heavy freight. They are key to our goal of tripling biking in California and to our strategy of making biking more mainstream.
Electric bike technology has evolved and now provides many models that look and feel like regular bikes but have quiet motors that give an assist when a rider pedals. Other models go faster and provide battery-assisted energy for long miles and heavy cargo.
State law does not recognize this evolution, however. All electric bikes are banned from class 1 bike paths, unless they’re permitted by local ordinance, and none are eligible for support as an alternative to automobiles as part of the Governor’s “clean transportation” initiative. Our 2015 legislative agenda will work to reverse these rules, with two specific objectives:
1. Change state regulations regarding electric bikes to permit certain electric bikes on more paths, especially all paved paths where regular bikes are allowed.
2. Develop a program to subsidize the purchase of bikes, especially electric bikes.
Clarifying the Vehicle Code
You know that carefully passing on the right in a wide, shared lane, is legal lane sharing and not illegal passing on the right. You know that an opening car door is a potential hazard that justifies leaving the bike lane. For you, a traffic light that doesn’t detect a bike is “inoperative” and you’re permitted by law to cross the intersection when it’s safe. Unfortunately, police officers and judges don’t necessarily agree with these interpretations. CalBike will work to clarify the Vehicle Code to ensure that these common sense interpretations of the law are clearly spelled out.
The Vehicle Code is also unclear on right-of-way rules around new bike infrastructure. Cars have to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, but what about bikes crossing the intersection in a protected bike lane adjacent to the crosswalk? We have the potential to lead the nation in simplified right-of-way rules in coordination with the newly bike-friendly CA Traffic Control Devices Committee, the same group that just quickly approved the nation’s first official “Pass Bikes Three Feet Min” sign.
Justice for Bike Riders
If you get hit by a car, insurance will pay according to your plan. But if you take evasive action to avoid a collision and get injured, insurance won’t help. A specific provision in law prevents insurance companies from paying unless contact occurs. Changing this rule pits us against one of the most powerful lobbies in Sacramento, the insurance lobby, but we know from long bicycle rides that just because a hill is steep and long does not make it impassable.
Permit Diversion Programs to Offer Education Instead of Punishment for Ticketed Bicyclists
Ticketed bicyclists should be allowed to attend a “bicycle traffic school” class and have their fine reduced, which would turn a monetary penalty into a valuable educational opportunity, especially for people who would be unlikely to attend a bicycle safety class of their own volition. Unfortunately, a provision in the Vehicle Code prevents most local agencies from implementing a program where a ticketed cyclist can get their ticket canceled if they attend a cycling education class. We aim to change that provision by amending precisely one word in the Vehicle Code, as follows: “This section does not apply to diversion programs for minor persons who commit infractions not involving a motor vehicle for which no fee is charged.” This is a joint campaign by CalBike and Bike East Bay.
Infrastructure designed to invite and protect bicyclists and pedestrians, and limit the damage that cars can do, is the most important strategy to reduce traffic injuries. However, when you set a goal of completely eliminating serious injuries and deaths, you need to attack from every angle. And enforcement is one important angle. Permitting automated enforcement of speed limits in California would help to reduce one of the biggest causes of serious crashes: speeding.
The City and County of San Francisco is leading the state in setting “zero” as the number of acceptable serious traffic injuries and deaths. We hope the appeal of “Vision Zero”, pioneered in Sweden in 1997, will lead Sacramento’s legislators to adopt stricter enforcement methods and that Governor Brown will sign a bill.