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Advocates Concerned That Cyclists Are Included in Distracted Driving Bill
Posted By Matthew Roth On March 3, 2010 @ 11:21 am In Bicycle Safety,California Bicycle Coalition,SFBC,SFPD,Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition | 73 Comments
"This was something that was an oversight from the initial enactment from 2006, which took effect in 2008," Simitian explained in an interview with Streetsblog. He said he waited a year after the law took effect to make changes, which include the increased fines, adding a point to a driver's record for the infraction, and using a portion of the fine to create an education fund for the dangers of distracted driving. Simitian also said the motivation for adding cyclists to the bill did not come from a dramatic incident nor a trend of increased cycling collisions due to cell phone use.
"Common sense tells us it’s not a safe habit, given all the risks that cyclists have to contend with," said Simitian.
The California Bicycle Coalition (CBC ), which was an early supporter of the original distracted driving legislation, was not thrilled about the inclusion of cyclists in the bill. CBC Communications Director Jim Brown said that he was confused about the motivation for extending the same level of fines to cyclists, particularly absent data showing distracted cycling as a public safety hazard.
"The consequences of a distracted driver are considerably more serious than the consequences of distracted cycling," said Brown, adding that safe riding should be encouraged at all times and that talking on a cell phone or any other practice that distracted a cyclist from riding would not be advisable.
As for the actual danger to the public of distracted cycling, Brown said the data didn’t support the presumption of risk the law seeks to redress. "There are theoretical risks and there are actual risks," he said. "As far as I’m aware, there is no accident evidence that points to a problem. In the absence of any evidence against bicyclists, this law seems premature."
Tom Rice, Research Epidemiologist at UC Berkeley's Safe Transportation Research and Education Center , said the issue could be one of data and the definition of a collision. "Unless there is also a motorized vehicle involved, it won't make it into traffic collision reports," he said. The traditional databases, such as the CHP's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS ), don't capture bicycle-pedestrian injury collisions or fatalities. "The data are hard to come by. It's not a nice, easy reliable data set," said Rice.
Simitian defended his record of support for cyclists, citing his work as mayor of Palo Alto to build that city's bicycle boulevard and numerous initiatives that improved cycling conditions. He also said he would be open to reviewing the fine structure in committee if that was a significant issue.
"I’ve been an advocate for cyclists for 25 years for full rights to the road, but with those rights come a certain degree of responsibility," he said.
UPDATE: The SFBC's Andy Thornley wanted to be sure readers know they don't oppose Senator Simitian's bill: "We're definitely in favor of cell phone and distracted driver/rider prohibitions that create safe streets for all users, no special forgiveness for folks on bikes. The concerns I expressed to Streetsblog about the proposal are not whether bicycle riders should follow the same rules as everyone else (they should), it's whether a distracted SUV driver and a distracted bike rider should be fined the same amount, given the enormous disparity in their destructive potential."
Bryan Goebel contributed reporting to this story.
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URL to article: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2010/03/03/advocates-concerned-that-cyclists-are-included-in-distracted-driving-bill/
URLs in this post:
 markofphotography: http://www.flickr.com/photos/milwaukeemark/4047334352/
 Senate Bill 1475: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_1451-1500/sb_1475_bill_20100219_introduced.html
 CBC: http://www.calbike.org/
 Safe Transportation Research and Education Center: http://www.safetrec.berkeley.edu/
 SWITRS: http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/switrs2000.html
 California Walks: http://www.californiawalks.org/
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