State Stop-as-Yield Bill Dropped… for Now? Forever?

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The following article first appeared at Streetsblog California.

The official statement from the author of A.B. 73, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner, is titled “Shifting Gears.” She has tried for several years to pass a bill allowing bike riders to treat stop signs as yield signs, and although she found the idea had bipartisan support, Governor Newsom has remained opposed. Last year, she pulled her bill when he made it clear he wouldn’t sign it.

This year, she removed A.B. 73 from the agenda before its last hearing for the same reasons.

Meanwhile, eleven states and counting have adopted some version of the law.

“I made the difficult decision to hold [A.B. 73] as a two-year bill in order to work in tandem with stakeholders to craft a robust and comprehensive bike and e-bike safety bill package next year,” reads the official statement.

As our state continues to move towards more sustainable transportation solutions, bicycles and e-bikes are playing a greater role. That also means we need to take a more comprehensive approach to changing the culture around bicycle safety and how bicyclists integrate and interact with motorists, transit and pedestrians. Whether someone is riding a bike or driving a car, everyone needs to have a mutual understanding of what their responsibilities are when they are on the road. This means more training, public awareness and better enforcement.

Does this mean she won’t pursue the idea behind A.B. 73? Staff at her office emphasize that she plans to continue working on it, but that as of now there are no details about what a “robust and comprehensive bike and e-bike safety bill package” might contain.

Except there is a hint. Assemblymember Boerner also just introduced an entirely new bill: one that would require licenses for e-bike riders. That seems somewhat related.

A.B. 530 would require people who do not have a driver’s license to pass a written test and obtain a photo ID card in order to legally ride an e-bike. It would also prohibit anyone under twelve from riding an e-bike. Boerner writes that the bill is in response to “a recent string of tragedies involving traffic safety.”

The official statement continues:

As a mother and a legislator, I believe that we must act to prevent our youth from injuries and educate parents on the promise and responsibility of e-bikes, and A.B. 530 is another step to increase their safety while sharing the road. Not every parent is a bike rider that can ensure our youth receive proper training. This takes a real commitment from our communities and our State. It will be a long process, and A.B. 530 is a critical starting point that we’ll continue to work to develop through meetings with stakeholders this fall.

Biking in LA writes that he learned that the bill won’t require licenses for people on e-bikes, but would require them to carry a photo ID. If so, that is not clear in the bill language. Another provision of the bill would create a working group to develop “recommendations to establish an e-bike training program and license,” and it may be that this part is supposed to come first.

Maybe this confusion can be chalked up to it being early times for the bill, which like every bill will go through multiple drafts and could be completely rewritten.

Nevertheless, expect some fireworks. Boerner is not wrong about the need for better traffic safety training, but requiring a license – or a photo ID, whichever one the bill is trying to say – could bring unexpected consequences that can’t be ignored. It’s also a question whether this can align with other legislative efforts to decrease overpolicing of people on bikes.

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