The deadline to introduce new bills to the California legislature was Friday, so a slew of new legislation is currently being assigned to committees for hearing. Some of them are so-called “spot” bills, as in “hold a spot in line for me, bub,” containing a bare minimum of information, with the plan being to shape them in legislative discussion. All of them are likely to be amended before reaching a vote, and they must go through two voting processes (one in each house) before being passed on to the governor to be signed. Meanwhile, they give some clues about what our lawmakers are thinking about.
Here are the bills in play that could potentially impact livable streets.
Vulnerable Road Users Law: Asm. Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced A.B. 2398, which raises the fines charged when drivers cause injury to “vulnerable road users,” defined as pedestrians, bicyclists, and people using farm equipment and riding horses. The bill is loosely modeled on an existing law in Oregon, but the fines in this bill are minuscule, and sanctions don’t include the community service or required license suspension of the Oregon law. Also, both laws depend on how the police assign responsibility for crashes — a significant flaw. For more on the Oregon law, see this interesting discussion from a Portland bike lawyer which predates its enactment, but could offer some guidance on as the CA bill moves through the legislature.
Bicycle Tax: Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) has proposed S.B. 1183, which would allowing local jurisdictions to set a tax on bike sales. Funds from the tax would go towards trail improvement and maintenance. Cyclelicious got this right, pointing out that while bike tax proponents argue that they provide “political credibility that cyclists pay their way,” this is a “bankrupt excuse of an argument,” since road infrastructure is disproportionately bankrolled by non-drivers through general taxes.
Redefining Electric Bicycles: Asm. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) put forward A.B. 2173, which would define electric bicycles with motors that are limited to a top speed of 20 mph as “low-speed” electric bikes, and allow them to ride in bike lanes and on bike paths and trails.
The East Bay Bicycle Coalition’s Robert Prinz is concerned that the wording of this bill may allow a loophole for Specialized’s new “turbo” e-bike, which can go up to 28 mph. “What we’re trying to do is calm traffic, not get bikes to speed up to car speeds,” he says. “There’s a big difference between a crash at 20 mph and a crash at 28 mph, especially for a cyclist.”