For the second year in a row, California Governor Jerry Brown issued a last-minute veto of legislation mandating a minimum three-foot distance for motor vehicles to pass cyclists. However, two other bills making it easier for cities to implement bike lanes got the governor’s signature, albeit in watered-down form: AB 2245, which exempts bike lanes from excessive review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and AB 819, which establishes a Caltrans experimentation process for adopting currently non-standard innovative bike lane designs, like physically protected bike lanes.
When Brown vetoed the 3-foot passing bill last year, he argued in a widely panned veto-message that a three foot passing law would damage the “free flow of traffic” and proposed a change that would not address his stated problem. This year, Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) made the changes that the Governor requested to SB 1464, but Brown and his advisors created a new reason to veto the legislation.
If only this car had crossed the double yellow line a little sooner. The image is taken from a story on Confessions of a... where a woman recounts the pain of being hit by a car and the miracle that she could walk away from such a crash.
This year, the Governor’s veto message expressed concern that the state would be liable for any crashes caused by reckless drivers who crossed a “solid yellow” line to give cyclists the three-foot buffer. The veto message also stated that Caltrans proposed a solution to “this issue,” but that Lowenthal’s office refused to make the change. Caltrans did not return calls for comments, and advocates familiar with the legislation professed to have “no idea” what the Governor was referencing.
In the nineteen states that have three foot passing laws and the one that has a four foot passing law, Streetsblog can find no evidence that the kind of lawsuit the Governor fears has ever been successfully prosecuted. The California Bicycle Coalition (CBC) reports that the California Department of Finance, the department responsible for tracking whether legislation opens the state to lawsuits, opined that current law would protect the state from these sorts of lawsuits. The CBC also notes that the language the Governor is concerned with was included in 2011′s three foot passing law, and that neither the Governor nor Caltrans expressed any concerns last year.
Cycling advocates were incensed at the veto.
“It’s pretty clear that the Governor is out of touch with what is happening on our roads,” writes Eric Bruins, the Policy and Program Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). “With the distracted driving bill and the 3-foot passing bill, the Legislature is responding to the public’s concerns about traffic safety. It’s time for the Governor to engage on these issues and protect victims of dangerous and distracted driving.” Streetsblog will have more on the distracted driving bill in a second post, later today.
The California Bicycle Coalition was even harsher.
“Brown has offered no indication of how he views bicycling or expressed any ideas for ensuring the safety of Californians who rely on bicycling as everyday transportation,” writes the Coalition on their website. “By vetoing SB 1464, he makes clear that he prioritizes legalistic speculation over the safety of Californians.”
“We’re deeply concerned about what his lack of vision and leadership means for the safety of our streets and roads.”