Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath has introduced a bill (AB 73) to legalize the bicycle safety stop. Currently, you could get ticketed for rolling through a stop sign on your bike instead of coming to a complete stop. AB 73 would make it legal for bike riders over the age of 18 to treat stop signs as yields, proceeding without fully stopping if they have the right of way and it’s safe to ride through.
As you’ll remember, if you’ve been following CalBike’s efforts to pass bike-friendly legislation, this isn’t the safety stop’s first trip through the California legislature. It passed the Assembly and Senate in 2021, but the governor vetoed it. In 2022, it was poised to reach the governor’s desk yet again, but Boerner Horvath pulled it at the last minute ahead of a promised second veto.
So why are we hopeful that the governor will sign this bill into law in 2023? Because we’ve seen this pattern before.
Slow adoption of active transportation safety
In 2021, Newsom vetoed two bills that would have decriminalized common, safe biking and walking behaviors. Both bills came back in 2022, and he signed a modified version of the Freedom to Walk Act, which directed police to no longer stop people from “jaywalking” except in cases of clear danger. It may have helped that, in the extra year, the national discussion about biased enforcement of laws like jaywalking gained steam and more jurisdictions changed their laws without negative consequences.
Let’s pause for a moment and note that, contrary to some dire predictions, people trying to cross the street haven’t thrown themselves in front of traffic now that the Freedom to Walk Act is the law. We all continue what we were doing before: making considered decisions about when and where it’s safe to cross the street. The only difference is that reasonable behavior is no longer grounds for ticketing and harassing BIPOC Californians.
In his veto statement in 2021, the governor cited his concern that allowing people on bikes to treat stop signs as yields would be unsafe, despite studies from other states showing the opposite. It was another example of the infuriatingly slow pace of change in lawmakers’ understanding of transportation data and best practices.
In 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a fact sheet endorsing stop-as-yield, citing that the law actually increases safety, making bike riding more appealing. Later that year, Streetsblog reported that a top transportation administrator supported the law.
Will federal support and the growing number of states that have passed similar laws be enough to sway the governor this year? Here’s why we’re hopeful.
3 reasons we think the bicycle safety stop could win in 2023
The provisions of AB 73 aren’t substantially different from the bill that failed last year, but we’re hopeful it can gain the governor’s signature in 2023. Yes, that’s partly because we’re optimists (we’re bike advocates — we have to be). But we also see good reasons to believe it could pass.
- It doesn’t cost the state money. In a year of belt-tightening, lawmakers, including Governor Newsom, will look for policy wins without fiscal implications, and the Bicycle Safety Stop fills that need.
- A surge in bike-friendly policy in Sacramento. In 2022, the demise of the safety stop was the exception rather than the rule. Most of the bills in a historic slate of active transportation measures became law. With climate change making itself felt more ferociously every year in our state, active transportation measures are gaining traction.
- The support of CalBike members like you. We’ll let bike advocates like you know about opportunities to reach out to your representatives and the governor. And this year, we’ll be pulling out all the stops. That means emailing, posting on social media, and even picking up the phone and making a call (yes, we hate making phone calls too, but it has a more significant impact than sending emails or posting). Let’s tell the governor that California wants the bicycle safety stop!