California’s legislative session has ended with several big accomplishments for active transportation. CalBike’s signature E-Bike Affordability Program is fully funded and in development. And the two other bills we sponsored this year have passed the Assembly and the Senate, which have placed a spotlight on the need to decriminalize the bicycle safety stop and jaywalking.
In 2021, California became the first state to offer e-bike subsidies. And the legislature passed bills to decriminalize safe biking and walking.
We don’t know if Governor Newsom will sign our outstanding bills (we hope he does), but we want to take a moment to savor the forward momentum for people who bike and walk in California.
More affordable e-bikes
Bicycle advocacy in Sacramento can be frustrating. Trying to explain the joy and efficiency of getting around by bike to people who only see the world through the windshield of an automobile is sometimes a steep uphill pedal. Fortunately, this year, the California legislature showed that it understands the value of e-bikes to fight climate change.
Electric cars get most of the attention and funding as a solution for climate change, even though electric bikes are the greenest transportation options. Electric bikes are accessible and healthful transport for people who aren’t physically able to ride a standard bike, carry heavy loads or passengers, or need to ride farther and faster than a traditional bike can take them. Plus, e-bikes have been shown to replace car trips, so they provide excellent low-carbon transport.
But e-bikes are much more expensive than classic bikes, so they often aren’t accessible to the people who need them most. CalBike has been working for the past several years on programs to make e-bikes more affordable. SB 400 (Umberg), passed in 2019, added electric bikes to the Clean Cars 4 All program. However, the rollout was hampered by the pandemic. And, while the program offers generous incentives, only people with a qualifying car to surrender could participate. We knew we needed to do more to help Californians get on e-bikes.
So we rolled out an ambitious campaign to get $10 million for e-bike subsidies through the budget process and AB 117 (Boerner Horvath). The legislature and the governor have agreed to a $10 million budget for e-bike purchase incentives. The program will launch by July 1, 2022. CalBike is working with the California Air Resources Board to develop its guidelines.
Our goal is to help get e-bikes into the hands of approximately 10,000 Californians who would benefit the most from electric bikes. That includes people who need utility bikes, bikes for carrying children, folding bikes, and bikes for people with disabilities. We are working hard to support a multi-faceted program that will meet the needs of these Californians and more. Sign up to find out when e-bike grants are available.
Common sense wins: the legislature endorses the Bicycle Safety Stop
The Bicycle Safety Stop Bill (AB 122, Boerner Horvath) will make it legal for people on bikes to treat stop signs as yields. Riders will legally do what most of us already do: slow down when approaching a stop sign and stop, if needed, to let other traffic and pedestrians cross. If the intersection is clear, bike riders can pedal through without stopping.
Idaho, Delaware, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Arkansas, Utah, Oklahoma, and North Dakota have already made this commonsense bicycle maneuver legal. This year, the legislature signaled that it’s time for California to join the movement for sensible bike laws. That’s thanks in no small part to the many of you who emailed your representatives in support of AB 122.
We hope this will be the year California passes the Bicycle Safety Stop Bill, but we have not heard from the governor that he’ll sign it. Please contact Governor Newsom and tell him to sign AB 122.
California poised to be a leader by legalizing safe street crossings
As a recent LAist article noted, everyone jaywalks. Jaywalking is an invented offense, put on the books a century ago to clear the streets for early (and very unsafe) car drivers. The new “crime” was designed to shift the blame in a crash from a negligent driver to the person walking.
CalBike’s Freedom to Walk Act (AB 1238, Ting) would make California one of the first states to reclaim the right of pedestrians to cross the street safely, repealing century-old jaywalking laws that made such crossings technically illegal. It will still be illegal to run out into traffic, but safe mid-block crossings would no longer be crimes. Virginia and Nevada have already enacted limited jaywalking decriminalization measures this year.
CalBike co-sponsored this bill with our partners California Walks, LA Walks, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Our streets can’t truly be safe until everyone is safe. The Freedom to Walk Act recognizes that street safety requires better infrastructure plus freedom from dangerous police encounters that too often end badly for BIPOC folks.
Getting this bill through the legislature was a hard-won victory. Legislators and law enforcement groups raised safety concerns, especially since pedestrian fatalities have been rising in recent years. However, our current jaywalking laws have done nothing to protect pedestrians. Decriminalizing jaywalking will free lawmakers and police to address the true causes of traffic violence (hint: it’s the people inside the two-ton machines, not the people outside them).
Jaywalking laws let reckless drivers off the hook for killing and injuring pedestrians and give police a pretext to harass Black Californians, who are cited at a rate as much as five times higher than white people—even though everybody jaywalks.
We are grateful that lawmakers understood the importance of legalizing safe street crossings and ending outdated and unjust laws. Their action is the first step in making California streets safe for all of us.
Governor Newsom can make California a leader in stepping boldly into that future by signing the Freedom to Walk Act. California will be the first state in the nation to repeal unjust jaywalking laws, which could be the start of an overdue trend. AB 1238 has already added to a growing national discussion about the need to decriminalize jaywalking.
We hear that the governor is under pressure to veto this critical bill. If he hears from enough constituents who support it, that could help him get to yes. Tell Governor Newsom to legalize safe street crossings.
More wins and losses for people who bike, active transportation, and climate-friendly communities
California’s legislative session ended on September 10. It was a mixed year for the other transportation and climate bills CalBike supported or was following. Some excellent legislation didn’t make it, but some visionary measures passed both houses. Read our full recap.