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Three-Foot Bike Passing Bill Passes CA Assembly, Needs Gov’s Signature

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A driver prepares to pass a bicycle rider on the Wiggle. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The California State Assembly passed a bill yesterday that would require motorists to provide three feet of space when passing bicyclists. SB 1464, which passed with a 50-16 vote, is expected to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September following a “largely procedural” approval by the State Senate, which already passed the bill in May, according to the California Bicycle Coalition.

Thousands of supporters wrote their Assembly members in recent weeks to urge a “yes” vote in a campaign spearheaded by TransForm and the CBC. The bill, according to the CBC, has “none of the organized opposition that fought SB 910,” the 3-foot passing bill that was vetoed by Brown last year. At the time, Brown said he was responding complaints from the California Highway Patrol and the American Automobile Association over a provision that would have required drivers to slow down to 15 MPH to pass if providing three feet was unfeasible. Instead, SB 1464 would require drivers in that situation to “slow down to a speed that is reasonable and prudent given traffic and roadway conditions and only pass when it’s safe to do so.”

The debate in the Assembly yesterday offered a glimpse of certain legislators’ views on cycling.

“This is a common sense approach to safety for bicyclists,” said Assembly Member Steven Bradford, a Democrat who represents the 51st District in Los Angeles. “Where it is unsafe to move over three feet, drivers have the discretion of just slowing down and passing a bicyclist.”

Three Assembly members spoke in opposition to the bill, all Republicans. Assembly Member Diane Harkey, representing the 73rd District in Orange County, eschewed the responsibilities of drivers to watch out for vulnerable street users and said more of the onus should be placed on bicyclists.

The bill, said Harkey, “Allows for lawsuits on motorists who are trying to do the right thing, but for some reason or another, a cyclist comes up behind, maybe in a blind corner, and the cyclist thinks he has the right-of-way and maybe is going full speed ahead, and knows that he’s got the law on his side, however, he may not have the poundage on his side.”

“Just because you have the right-of-way, doesn’t mean that you will survive or live,” added Harkey. “The cycling has gotten a little bit out of control. They are not cars.”

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Three-Foot Passing Bill Up for Vote at State Assembly Friday

Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr

A state bill that would require drivers to give three feet of leeway when passing bicyclists in California is headed to the State Assembly for a vote this Friday.

TransForm and the California Bicycle Coalition are calling on supporters to email their Assembly members and urge them to vote “yes.” If approved by the Assembly, the bill could be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September, bringing California in line with 21 other states and the District of Columbia, which have similar laws.

Support for the bill looks strong. The bill sailed through the State Senate in May, and by yesterday afternoon, supporters had sent at least 1,340 letters to their Assembly members, according to the CBC. The real question remaining is whether the bill will be signed by Governor Brown, who vetoed a previous version of the bill last year.

The new bill was modified to address Brown’s complaints about a provision which would have required drivers to slow down to 15 MPH if they are unable to safely provide three feet of room. Instead, the bill would require drivers in that situation to “slow down to a speed that is reasonable and prudent given traffic and roadway conditions and give the bicyclists as much clearance as feasible.”

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CA Senate Passes 3-Foot Passing Bill. Will Gov Brown Sign It This Time?

Close passes like this one on Market Street would be explicitly illegal under the three-foot passing law, which is already in place in 21 states. Flickr photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

The three-foot passing bill for bicyclists sailed through the California Senate today, reports the California Bicycle Coalition on Twitter:

Senate just voted 27-6 to approve SB 1464. No debate or opposition! 6 Republicans voted YES.

The bill still needs to make its way through the State Assembly, but all signs point to little opposition.

The real question remaining is whether Governor Jerry Brown will veto it again. Brown vetoed the previous version of the proposal, SB 910, last October due to opposition from the California Highway Patrol and the American Automobile Association over hypothetical traffic congestion caused by cars slowing down to pass bicycles.

However, the language in SB 1464 is tailored to address Brown’s concerns, so hopes are high for California to catch up with the 21 other states that have similar laws.

Enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend — we’ll see you back here Tuesday.

Streetsblog LA 8 Comments

Tell Your State Senator to “Give Me 3″ This Thursday

Senate Bill 1464, the three-foot bike passing bill proposed by California Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), heads back to the Senate on Thursday, May 24 after sailing through committee last week. Buoyed by a strong campaign by the California Bike Coalition (CBC) and TransForm, thousands of supporters have already written letters to their senators urging them to pass the bill.

The first Give Me 3 poster on 1st and Main in Los Angeles, 2010. Photo: LADOT Bike Blog

“The community of people who care about the safety of bicyclists continues to be the backbone of support for this bill,” said Jim Brown, spokesperson for the CBC. “Nearly 1,800 people have contacted their state senators to urge a yes vote this Thursday. This is a very large response by any measure, especially for bike-related legislation. It shows how strongly people care about making our roads safer.”

If passed, SB 1464 would require drivers to give cyclists a three foot passing berth when passing them. A nearly identical proposal, SB 910, was vetoed by Governor Brown in October due to pushback from AAA and the CA Highway Patrol (CHP), despite making its way through both houses of the legislature. As reported in Streetsblog  last month, the CBC worked with AAA and the CHP to revise the language they objected to and propose a new bill.

SB 1464 differs from last year’s bill by allowing drivers to cross a solid double yellow centerline (when safe) if necessary to give a bicyclist at least three feet of space. If three feet aren’t available, the bill requires drivers to pass by slowing down to a “reasonable and prudent” speed and giving bicyclists as much space as “feasible.”

The CBC launched the “Give Me 3” campaign to support the bill last year using imagery from Los Angeles’ bike safety campaign in 2010. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Streetsblog that the passage of a safe passing law in Sacramento is “a top legislative priority” for him.

If the Senate passes SB 1464 on Thursday, it would then head to the State Assembly for approval by the appropriate committees and the full assembly. After that, it’s back to the Governor Brown’s desk, where he could sign it into law or veto it again.

TransForm and the CBC partnered to provide an easy form which supporters can use to write their legislators. By clicking on this link and entering your zip code on TransForm’s website, you can generate an email addressed to your senator. You can also modify the email with a more personal message, which is especially powerful if you know someone who was injured in a crash. If you would prefer to use email or regular mail, click here for instructions from the CBC.

Sample letter. Click here to generate your own.

Streetsblog LA 1 Comment

It’s Take Two for the “Give Me 3″ State Bicycle Passing Law

On October 7th, Governor Jerry Brown shocked the California cycling community and snubbed Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and bill sponsor Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) when he vetoed Senate Bill 910, a proposed law that would have required motorists to give cyclists a three foot buffer when passing. However, proponents of the “Give Me 3″ bill are back with a new proposal – SB 1464.

A Sacramento bicyclist expresses her support for the "Give Me 3" campaign on Bike to Work Day. Photo: California Bicycle Coalition

The proposed bill, also introduced by Lowenthal, is nearly identical to SB 910, but legislators removed a provision that would have required drivers to slow down to 15 mph to pass bicyclists if there was insufficient room to pass with three feet.  This provision so rankled the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans and the AAA that they convinced the governor to veto the proposal fearing cars backing up if they are unable to pass a cyclist at 15 miles per hour.

While similar laws in other states have included the provision, Lowenthal and the California Bike Coalition (CBC) feel that removing it increases the chance that the legislation will pass. Back when the Governor vetoed the legislation, Senator Lowenthal noted that removing that provision would actually make the road safer for cyclists, although it would do nothing to address the Governor’s stated concerns.

“This is the bill Gov. Brown seemed to say he was open to supporting when he vetoed SB 910 last October,” said Jim Brown, the communications director for the CBC. “We’re confident this bill meets his concerns and we look forward to his support.”

Both Lowenthal and the CBC say they are open to amendments that would add an exception to the law that would allow for safe passing in situations where there is not the road space or speed limits that would allow cars to pass cyclists under a strict three-foot passing requirement.

The proposal, sponsored by the CBC and the City of Los Angeles, is expected to be heard by the State Senate this spring.

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State Assembly Undermines Bill to Let California Cities Build Safer Bikeways

On Monday, the State Assembly Transportation Committee passed a watered down version of AB 819, the bill aimed at freeing California planners to install next-generation bikeway designs that other American cities are using to improve street safety and make cycling a more accessible mode of transportation.

CA legislators have removed language from AB 819 that would have facilitated the implementation of bikeways like this one in Chicago. Photo: CDOT via The Bicycle Blog of Wisconsin

Assembly members undermined the bill’s original intent by removing language allowing planners to use guidelines that have been established outside Caltrans, like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, which includes designs for protected bikeways. Instead, the amended bill would only require Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers can establish bikeway standards. That process is likely to be a lengthy one.

Advocates say the amended bill could be an improvement over the status quo, but it’s a far cry from giving local transportation agencies the freedom to implement bikeway designs that cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. have rolled out with impressive results.

“The committee’s amendment is a step toward our goal of permitting the kind of bike infrastructure that we need,” said California Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Jim Brown. “How big a step this will be depends on the kind of experimentation process Caltrans comes up with. But it’s not the blanket authorization we’re seeking for local agencies to design the safest possible bikeways.”

Local transportation officials can still implement protected bikeways, but the process is much more complex than it needs to be. Without a set of approved standards to work from, agencies are subject to greater liability, and each project must contend with the red tape of Caltrans approval — a time-consuming and expensive process.

Brown said the AB 819 amendment was passed without deliberation but still requires approval by other committees as well as the State Senate. It was introduced by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, a group which distrusts the NACTO guide and has traditionally resisted protected bikeways despite their proven benefits in safety and increased ridership in California cities, other American cities, and abroad.

“Whether through legislation or other means,” said Brown, “we’re continuing to work with Caltrans to figure out how innovative bikeway designs already used in other parts of the U.S. and Europe can be implemented in California.”

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New Bill Could Free CA Planners to Use More Innovative Bikeway Designs

Physically protected bikeways have been implemented with great success in cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. But in California, where such facilities are still considered “experimental” by Caltrans, outdated state standards make it difficult for transportation planners to implement them.

New York City's Eighth Avenue protected bike lane. Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr

That could change under a state bill called AB 819, which would give California cities more flexibility to implement bikeway designs that are fast becoming the best practices in leading American cities.

“The goal of AB 819 is to free up communities to implement the kind of innovative facilities we’re seeing in use in other parts of the country and in Europe,” said Jim Brown, communications director for the California Bicycle Coalition.

Under current state law, facilities like protected bike lanes and bike boxes – which are not established within Caltrans guidelines — must go through an expensive and time-consuming approval process. Although some have been built in cities like San Francisco and Long Beach, they haven’t come easily.

“Cities can get permission to experiment through Caltrans, but it’s a really long decision process,” said Brown. Using “experimental” designs also leaves planners subject to greater legal liability. “It means that cities are less willing to install facilities that might actually increase bicycle ridership.”

AB 819 would allow planners to use guidelines that have already been developed outside the state, like the Urban Bikeway Design Guidereleased last spring by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and approved by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, to help them plan and fund those projects.

But the bill’s reach could be limited by an amendment proposed by the California Association of Bicycle Organizations (CABO), a smaller coalition which argues that using outside guidelines for bikeways could be problematic. Their alternative proposal, which will be considered at a State Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on Monday, would only allow new types of bike facilities to be established under an experimentation process within Caltrans.

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CA Bike Coalition Refutes CHP’s Claims About 3-Foot Passing Law

Close passes like this one on Market Street would be explicitly illegal under the three-foot passing law, which is already in place in 20 states. Flickr photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

This article is re-published with permission from the California Bicycle Coalition blog.

Update: Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed the 3-foot passing bill. His statement can be found here [PDF]. 

The California Bicycle Coalition has compiled evidence showing that 3-foot-passing laws haven’t had any negative impacts on traffic flows in other states that have enacted these laws, and that such laws are actually boosting bicycle ridership and changing driver behavior for the better.

CBC is responding to reports that the California Highway Patrol is conjuring up worst-case scenarios as part of its whispering campaign to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to veto Senate Bill 910, the 3-foot-passing bill cosponsored by the CBC and the City of Los Angeles.

The CHP reportedly is telling Gov. Brown that SB 910 would cause an epidemic of rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes when they realize they don’t have space to pass bicyclists by at least three feet. Yet the CHP hasn’t produced any evidence of such problems in any of the 20 states that have 3-foot-passing laws on the books.

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, the nation’s oldest bicycling advocacy organization, wrote this week in a letter to Gov. Brown, “In our experience working with the 19 [sic] other states that have passed three-foot passing laws, we have heard of no increases in the number of motor vehicle crashes due to the new requirements or any increased burden on law enforcement. In contrast, we have received nothing but positive responses to these laws.”

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Streetsblog LA 8 Comments

Lance Armstrong, L.A.’s Mayor Push Brown on S.B. 910

Lance Armstrong and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at "Hope Rides Again" Cancer Awareness Event in March, 2009. Photo:So Ca. Cycling.com

Bicycling superstar Lance Armstrong and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have joined forces again.  Their target: Governor Jerry Brown.  Their message: sign S.B. 910, the state’s three foot passing law that would protect cyclists from drivers who pass too close and too fast.

“Gov. Brown can help make our roads safer for everyone by making Senate Bill 910 the law in California,” said Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, and the most famous bicyclist in the world.

“I’m thrilled that we have Lance Armstrong’s support on this issue,” added Villaraigosa. “His success is a big reason so many more Californians are interested in bicycling. It’s so important to have experts like him advocating for making California a more bike-friendly place.”

The Senate and Assembly both passed S.B. 910, authored by Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal, which would require motorists passing bicyclists to give at least a three foot cushion if the car’s speed is 15 miles per hour. Many Republicans opposed the measure, in large part due to the opposition of speeding traffic advocates, AAA and the California Highway Patrol. Last week, Streetsblog San Francisco reported that those same two groups are lobbying the Governor to veto this traffic safety measure.

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Tell Governor Brown: Sign SB 910, Safe Passage Bill for Cyclists

Photo: Waltaar

The California Bicycle Coalition is hearing that Governor Jerry Brown is getting pressure from the California Highway Patrol and AAA to veto SB 910, the safe passage bill for bicyclists. Known as the “Give Me 3″ bill, it would require drivers to give people on bikes at least 3 feet of space when passing from behind. It cleared both houses of the Legislature with overwhelming support, and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

From the CBC:

CHP and AAA are recommending that Gov. Brown veto SB 910, yet neither one has produced any evidence of problems from the 19 other states with these laws, including Wisconsin, which has 38 years’ experience under its 3-foot-passing law.

Most CA drivers try give bicyclists enough space, but they get no guidance from CA’s vague and subjective passing law.

Many CA drivers also willingly cross the double-yellow line to pass bicyclists on narrow two-lane roads, but why is it reasonable to ask them to break the law in order to do the right thing?

More bicyclists die from being hit from behind than from any other type of vehicle collision — it’s the single biggest cause of adult bicyclist deaths. Is this the status quo CHP and AAA want to preserve?

The CBC is encouraging Streetsblog readers to email Governor Brown’s office asap and tell him: sign SB 910 into law! You can download a sample letter and get more instructions here.