California Governor Vetoes Bill To Protect Bicyclists

So Far Behind the Times, He Can Chat With the Man Who Told Elvis to Give Up Music

California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed Senate Bill 910, which would have given bicyclists 3 feet or more of clearance when being passed by drivers. Brown’s arguments against the bill echo those of Paula LaBrie, Legislative Counsel for AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah.

Jerry Brown: On streets with speed limits of 35 or 40mph, slowing to 15mph to pass a bicycle could cause rear end collisions. On other roads, a bicycle may travel at or new 15 mph creating a long line of cars behind the cyclist. (Quoted here)

AAA: Current language in the bill would require the vehicle to slow to 15 mph of the speed of the bicycle to pass…it can cause a drastic decrease in speed differentials between the vehicle passing the bicycle and other vehicles on the road depending on the posted speed limit. (Quoted here)

These very similar arguments seem to hinge on the same assumption: that drivers are being asked to endanger themselves, and other motorists, by significantly altering their behavior to accommodate bikes. However, the reality is that there are many roads in California not equipped with bike lanes, and cyclists in California are only required to keep to the right when conditions allow. This means that a bicyclist can already legally occupy a full lane for as long as necessary at speeds under 15 mph.  In short, bikes are already on the roadways.  Drivers are already dealing with the logistics of encountering slower and more vulnerable vehicles on the road. Governor Brown and AAA point out that slowing down and changing lanes are not entirely safe actions for motorists, and therefore object to requiring them by law. But, as California law already states, bikes on the roadway have the same rights as drivers.  Unsafe passing of other vehicles is already illegal. The 3-foot law merely reiterates the importance of recognizing bikes as vehicles with a legitimate claim to as much of the road as they need to be safe.

Referring to the problems of backed-up traffic and changes in traffic speed, Governor Brown has said “I encourage the author, proponents, and opponents to send me a bill next year that solves these problems…”

Beyond building and maintaining dedicated bike lanes on every road in the state, there aren’t any options that don’t require compromise between cyclists and motorists. In this case, motorists are being asked to use the same precautions they would when encountering any slow-moving vehicle. Fewer cyclists would be injured or killed, and more Californians would feel safe enough to choose bikes as a sane transportation option. Somehow, none of this seems like a veto-worthy problem…unless a group with the political clout of AAA is informing your decisions…and your press releases.
The California Bike Coalition is asking the Governor for a meeting to discuss the veto and other issues of concern to cyclists in the state. We look forward to hearing his response. Meanwhile, go to the CBC's Give Me Three website to help Say No to AAA, and express your support for the bill to Governor Brown (the CBC will print your emails and hand-deliver them to his office).

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