California’s legislators are done for the year; now it’s up to Governor Gavin Newsom which bills become law and which get vetoed. Newsom has until October 14 to sign or veto bills. If he takes no action, the bill becomes law.
There are several noteworthy bills that will improve active transportation on the governor’s desk. We had some success in the budget, restoring money initially pulled from the ATP and ensuring funding to continue the e-bike incentive program. Since this is the first year of a two-year session, several measures became two-year bills, which means they’ll get debated again early next year. And quite a few excellent bills died in the legislature.
Dealing with the realities of California’s budget deficit forced lawmakers to make some tough decisions, particularly in matters regarding funding. Here’s a recap of everything that happened with bike-friendly bills in a bruising legislative session.
The Active Transportation Slate: Bills that sit with the governor
CalBike’s slate includes six excellent bills on the governor’s desk that will make biking safer, improve transit, study a vehicle weight fee, and increase Caltrans transparency.
AB 825 Bryan: Safe Passage for Bikes
The Safe Passage for Bikes Bill allows bicycle riding on a sidewalk adjacent to a street that does not include a Class I, Class II, or Class IV bikeway. As it made its way through the legislature, this bill was amended to overcome objections from cities that wanted more authority to regulate sidewalks, particularly in busy areas. The bill will take away a justification for traffic stops that may be racially biased and give people on bikes safer places to ride on dangerous streets with no bikeways. At the same time, it includes provisions to protect pedestrians and give them the right of way on sidewalks. AB 825 is a positive step toward decriminalization and bike rider safety, and we hope the governor signs it.
AB 413 Lee: Daylighting to Save Lives
The daylighting bill prohibits the stopping, standing, or parking of a vehicle within 20 feet of any unmarked or marked crosswalk. Intersections are the most common sites of collisions involving people walking and biking. Though this measure has been amended to allow shorter daylighting in some places, we think this is a crucial measure that will improve safety by increasing visibility.
AB 645 Friedman: Automated Speed Enforcement
The Automated Speed Enforcement Bill establishes an automated speed safety pilot program in six jurisdictions: the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Glendale, and Long Beach, and the City and County of San Francisco. Cities must give 30 days notice before the program starts, and tickets issued for the first 60 days will be warnings with no fines. Automated speed enforcement has been effective in other states, and it’s crucial to making our streets safer since speed is a major factor in collisions with serious injuries and fatalities. Assemblymember Laura Friedman has been trying to pass this measure for a few years; this is the first time it’s made it all the way through the legislature. The pilot cities are all eager to participate, and we hope the bill passes so we can get data on the usefulness of speed cameras on California streets.
AB 819 Bryan: Decriminalizing Transit Fare Evasion
This bill decriminalizes fare evasion by removing it as a misdemeanor classification. Riders can still be fined, but potential penalties wouldn’t include jail time. In our ideal world, public transit would be free and frequent, with no need for police to check fares. Unfortunately, our civic budget priorities won’t fund that at the moment, but AB 819 is a step in the right direction.
AB 251 Ward: Deadly Oversized Cars
The Deadly Oversized Cars Bill convenes a task force to study the relationship between vehicle weight and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists and to study the costs and benefits of imposing a passenger vehicle weight fee. If California adds a weight fee, it could serve as a disincentive for manufacturers and consumers to make and purchase heavier SUVs and light trucks.
SB 695 Gonzalez: Caltrans Freeway Data
This data transparency measure will require Caltrans to prepare and make available information and data about activities on the state highway system on a public portal. It seems wonky, but having more visibility into Caltrans projects is crucial for advocates like CalBike because it will make it much easier to direct our efforts where they will have the most impact.
Two bills we’re watching also made it through the legislative process. SB 381 would initiate a study of e-bike safety. We support this idea if it looks at how to keep e-bike riders (and all people on bikes) safe on our streets and bikeways, but we’re concerned it could be another piece of the current e-bike panic that unfairly blames electric bikes for causing cars to crash into them. SB 538 would require Caltrans to appoint a bike czar to oversee all things bike-related at the agency. We think everyone at Caltrans should understand bike-friendly planning rather than leaving it to one person to advocate for better bikeways within the agency.
What is a two-year bill?
Every odd-numbered year is the first year of the two-year legislative session in California. Bills introduced in odd years have three paths: become law, die in the legislature or get vetoed by the governor, or become a two-year bill. Two-year bills must pass their house of origin by January 31 of the following year.
There are many reasons authors may choose to make measures into two-year bills. They may need more time to build support to pass a committee or floor vote, the bill may need more time to be amended, or the political climate wasn’t favorable this session but might be better next year.
Here are all the bills CalBike supported that became two-year bills:
- Regional Prioritization for Clean Transportation (AB 6, Friedman): Requires regional transportation agencies to prioritize and fund transportation projects that significantly contribute toward regional and state climate goals
- Project Selection Process (AB 7, Friedman): Requires state transportation agencies to incorporate environmental and equity principles into their project selection process
- Bicycle Safety Stop (AB 73, Boerner Horvath): Legalizes stop-as-yield for bike riders aged 18 or older
- Cars Blocking Bike Lanes (AB 361, Ward): Authorizes cities to install automated forward-facing parking control devices on city-owned parking enforcement vehicles for the purpose of video imaging parking violations occurring in bicycle lanes
- Free Transit for Youth (AB 610, Holden): Establishes pilot program that provides grants to transit agencies for the costs of creating and implementing free youth transit passes to persons attending certain educational institutions
- Transit Transformation Task Force (AB 761, Friedman): Establishes a Transit Transformation Task Force to develop policies to grow transit ridership and improve the transit experience for all users
- Tenancy & Micromobility (SB 712, Portantino): Prohibits a landlord from prohibiting a tenant from owning a personal micromobility device or from storing a personal micromobility device in their dwelling unit unless the landlord provides secure, long-term storage for those devices.
Bills that didn’t make it
Six bills CalBike supported died in the legislature. We discuss two in more detail below. All are excellent measures that we hope to see return in some form in a future session.
- The Equity-First Transportation Funding Act (AB 1525, Bonta): This bill would have prioritized transit funding for historically underserved communities. It’s a good way to begin to correct the harms of decades of underfunded streets and punitive urban planning.
- Highway Pilot Projects to Reduce Emissions (AB 981, Friedman): This would have required Caltrans to complete 10 pilot highway maintenance and rehabilitation demonstration projects that would have resulted in significantly reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.
- California Bike Smart Safety Handbook (AB 1188, Boerner Horvath): A requirement for the DMV to create a bicycle handbook died in Appropriations in a tight budget year.
- No More Warrants for Infractions (AB 1266, Kalra): Eliminating the use of bench warrants for minor infractions would have reduced the temperature of traffic stops that can sometimes become lethal.
Measures to make policing less biased and more effective failed in 2023
Traffic policing is often aimed more at crime prevention than curbing traffic violence, and, as a result, it’s not effective at either and is the most common starting point for police encounters that turn violent. CalBike sponsored the Stop Baseless Searches Bill (AB 93, Bryan) to prevent police from searching people stopped while biking or driving. Investigations have shown that police are more likely to search bike riders during a stop for a minor infraction, that these stops are disproportionately of Black and Latino Californians, and that they’re unlikely to turn up any evidence of a crime, but this measure didn’t make it out of the Assembly.
We also prioritized the Stop Pretextual Policing Bill (SB 50, Bradford), which would have prevented police stops for minor infractions. It passed the Senate but died on the Assembly floor after last-minute opposition from law enforcement.
Fewer than half of violent crimes in California are solved. Yet police prefer to spend time on traffic stops, an element of the discredited “broken windows” theory of crime prevention. Changing attitudes about what’s needed to keep our streets safe from traffic violence is as big a challenge as convincing planners to design infrastructure that keeps people safe while biking and walking. We will continue to advocate for both.