Bicycle zealots run over common sense with new laws

Sept. 12, 2012

By Katy Grimes

If bicycling extremists had their way, California would fall out of love with the auto. Bicycle zealots have been aggressively pushing the state to reduce dependence on cars and greatly enhance the use of bikes and public transportation — and Legislators are listening.

The California Legislature just passed three bills allowing the state’s bicycling extremists the upper hand on streets designed for autos.

AB 819, by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, would allow cities to begin designing unique bicycling lanes and customized signage. This is because, as one analysis put it, “some jurisdictions may wish to distinguish their communities by installing non-standard bike signs, markers and traffic control devices to demonstrate their heightened interest’s in bicyclist activities, or just to establish and set apart their communities individualities.”

We need a law for this?

AB 819 isn’t just any law; it requires Caltrans to establish the procedures for the cities to create and install their unique bicycling signage by June 30, 2013, and report progress to the Legislature by Nov. 1, 2014.

If I hadn’t see the bill and heard the debate, I wouldn’t have believed this. The waste of time on this frivolous bill is government at its worst.

But the residents of Davis, Calif. must be giddy with excitement. And this appears to be an opportunity for Caltrans to expand its signage department.

The other bicycling bill, SB 1464 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would require drivers on a two-lane road to veer at least three feet around a cyclist to pass. The “Three Feet For Safety Act” also requires a driver to slow to a “reasonable and prudent speed” when passing a bicyclist if the driver is unable to provide the three-foot passing space in heavier traffic.

An almost identical bill was vetoed by the  Gov. Jerry Brown last year. In his veto message, the governor expressed concern that the slow passing speed could increase rear-end collisions and create backups.

Bicycling Zealots

The bicycling lobby has become almost as pushy as the environmental lobby. They resent that streets were designed for cars, and are getting even.

In 2008, the Legislature passed the California Complete Streets Act, which required roadways to be designed to accommodate all users: bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, disabled people, children, older people and motorists.

Obviously, no one talked with a physics professor before writing this legislation.

The co-sponsor of SB 1464, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, noted that because of the bill, bicyclists can feel safer in Los Angeles.

In 2011, Villaraigosa promised his city that 1,680 miles of bike lanes would be made available. After Villaraigosa crashed his bike into a taxi cab in Los Angeles, he became the bicycling community’s biggest advocate.

He pushed his City Council to pass the new bicycle plan, and it passed unanimously.

Los Angeles is suffering under staggering debt, the bus system is cutting routes and raising fares, and many wonder how the city will find the money to put in all of the new bicycle lanes.

If you think LA gridlock is bad now, just wait.

The California Bicycle Coalition, the other co-sponsor of the legislation, has been running a campaign for the three-foot passing distance law.

“Existing law requires drivers to pass other vehicles and bicycles at a ‘safe distance’ but doesn’t specify what that distance is,” the California Bicycle Coalition states. “If drivers don’t know what constitutes a safe passing distance, how can people who ride bikes or want to ride feel confident that drivers know how to share the road safely?”

The coalition apparently is the only source of information the committee analysts used. “According to the California Bicycle Coalition provided, approximately 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws specifying a minimum passing distance of at least three feet for drivers overtaking cyclists,” bill analysis states.

“This is a stupid bill,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, during debate in the Assembly.

“It’s about auto drivers respecting bicyclists,” Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Humbolt, retorted.

CEQA exemption

Adding to the mounting insanity, another bill, AB 2245 by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, would allow all new bicycle lane construction to take place without going through a standard environmental review as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Assemblyman Smyth argues that bike lanes are as environmentally friendly as an infrastructure project can get — so why would they ever need a so-called ‘environmental’ review?” LA Weekly reported.

But the bill is ultra-convenient for the L.A. Department of Transportation, currently faced with installing a daunting 1,680 miles worth of bike lane, as promised to the cycling zealots by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2011. At LADOT’s current bike-lane construction rate of 40 miles per year, however, the mayor will be 93 years old before his promise comes true.”

But this bicycle-friendly bill has put cycling zealots at odds with environmental zealots.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is relieved. “Currently, CEQA requires cities and counties to file an Environmental Impact Report if the construction and operation of proposed projects are deemed to significantly effect the surrounding environment, both natural and human-made,” LADOT states on its website. “The bill in consideration would permit local agencies to forgo such rigorous review for Class II bikeway (bike lane) projects.”

The tail is wagging the dog in California. As the LA transportation department gleefully states, “This exemption would allow decision makers to still consider the traffic impacts of bike lanes, but without wasting the time and resources that an EIR process requires, allowing more effort to be placed on planning and public outreach.”

I am hoping that legislators introduces a bill mandating bicyclists to follow traffic laws. If California is really going to become bicycle-friendly, it’s time for cyclists to follow all traffic laws; because when bike-auto collisions occur, often the bicyclist is part of the problem, and not always the victim.

27 comments

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  1. Edward Steele, Chief Investigator
    Edward Steele, Chief Investigator 12 September, 2012, 08:50

    Most of these bike riders are of course Dem’s. When will it stop? The word bicycle does not appear in the Counstitution.

    Reply this comment
  2. cnacs cnacs
    cnacs cnacs 12 September, 2012, 09:15

    Well, you just jumped the shark. I am most definitely not a DEM, but I and my family ride bikes for recreation, and my kids ride them for transportation. On narrow county roads, getting hit by the side mirror of a truck, by a driver who refuses to give some room, is not a good thing. (And yes, I have had this happen to two of my friends).

    This piece is full of shoddy logic, appeals to emotion, and just general silliness. (You are even complaining about removing expensive regulation! Really?) I am accustomed to much better from you guys.

    Reply this comment
  3. doug
    doug 12 September, 2012, 10:01

    riding a bike isnt a bad thing.
    common sense while riding a bike is essential.
    i was told years ago when in elementary school by a police officer that cyclists are required to obey traffic laws and signs. stop means stop and use hand signals. wear proper clothing and use lights and reflectors. they even had bike inspections for free. i had to get a bike license too.
    but i cant tell you how many times i see cyclists riding 2 or 3 wide in their lane and expect an auto to accomodate the space. they cut corners, ride on opposite sides of the streets. you have to expect that arent visible at all times. common sense takes a back seat in this “about me” mentality that we have built up across this nation and especially in this state.

    Reply this comment
  4. Mntngoat
    Mntngoat 12 September, 2012, 10:37

    As a fellow cyclist who is NOT a dem, i have found AA batteries make a great deterant to those drivers that don’t seem to want to grant enough space. I can carry a pocketful and the drivers seem to give more room when they see batteries hurling their direction

    Reply this comment
  5. Tax Target
    Tax Target 12 September, 2012, 10:43

    More laws / regulations that the average person will simply ignore…. kinda like the cell phone law… Kalifornsky nanny state feel good bull democrap.

    Last I looked using a vehicle to injure a bicycle rider is a crime…

    Oh and the funding comes from where?

    Reply this comment
  6. us citizen
    us citizen 12 September, 2012, 10:53

    I will state also…….riding 2 and three abreast is against the law. Not stopping at a stop sign is against the law. When I come up to a corner and I have the right away and the bicycle going perpendicular doesnt stop for his stop sign……that is not the drivers fault. Most of the time it is the bicyclists fault. It is time they take responsibility for their own actions instead of the driver. We are bigger and we will win in a crash! As far as wasting money on this……you betcha………it is a waste. They dont following rules now, what makes you think they are going to change over night.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 12 September, 2012, 12:36

    You want Europpe move there…It sucks over there…..
    ….high cost of living,.
    ..cannot afford a home or auto…..taxes to the moon…..but you can ride your cute little red bike!

    Reply this comment
  8. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 12 September, 2012, 14:39

    I was told point blank by a highway patrol officer that 99% of the incidents on Highway 9 or the roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains that involve a bicycle are the fault of the cyclist.

    You can’t get it any clearer than that folks. Bicyclists are myopic creatures.

    Reply this comment
  9. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 12 September, 2012, 15:28

    While bicyclists are “myopic creatures” (and I agree), they are just one more entitlement, special interest group, and a financial and emotional drain on the rest of us.

    We don’t need laws to tell us to drive around bicyclists, or more special bicycle lanes on streets and roads which are dangerous. We need the roads in California repaired and maintained for everyone’s safety.

    Every day that I drive to and from work, a bicyclist causes traffic backups, creates dangerous and hazardous traffic snags, and usually on streets that are not safe for them. If I rode my bike to work, it would not be on the same route I drive; I’d find safer streets, and streets with less traffic.

    To think that bicycles and autos can travel safely together on every road is nonsense, and proves that the people pushing for this are not very smart, but are very entitled.

    Katy

    Reply this comment
  10. Steve Bundy
    Steve Bundy 12 September, 2012, 16:55

    Why so much hostility? This is simply a safty issue. I am a car driver and a bike rider. I drive much more than I ride. Common sense based on safety is what should be governing how we transport ourselves as well as our discourse on matters of what vehicles are on our roads. Yes, there are rude bicylists. Yes, there are rude car drivers. Those who don’t ride bicycles probablly don’t understand how many road hazzards that are unnoticed as a car driver can cause a bicyclist to crash.

    How roads have been designed is not the issue. The use of roads now not the historic designs of them is what matters now. Anyone who drives in Europe knows how patient most Euopean drivers are when they are on a road with a bicylist. It isn’t a territorial fight for dominance by angry drivers who are being slowed by rude bicyclists, it’s safety first perspective.

    As for back-ups and slow downs, I am confident that many more are caused by auto crashes and too many cars for a particular road than by bicyclists. Any slowdown to safely negotiate around a bicyclist is easily made-up by racing your car to the next slowdown, which usually is not a bicyclist.

    As for bicyclists being “myopic creatures”, that is just stupid and reactionary. Such a statement is typical of discourse in America now. We all have various parts of our lives that inform us. Do we need more laws around bicycle safety? I don’t think more laws will make bicyclists safer. Looking to government to provide the answer is futile. Bicycles and pedestrians are not allowed on all roads, but on any road on which they are allowed, there is a presumption of safety. It is not nonsense, it is factual that we who do ride bicyles, and cars, are entitled to the presumption of safe passage.

    Having to slow down for safety, well of course. Having to negotiage a road safely, well of course. Whether it is a car, a motorcycle, a truck, a car, or a pedestrian, we all know how to safely make our way. It is the presumption and entitlement of “not having to slow down” that is baffeling.

    Steve

    Reply this comment
  11. us citizen
    us citizen 12 September, 2012, 17:59

    Boy Katy………you got that right

    Reply this comment
  12. Eyeamok
    Eyeamok 13 September, 2012, 05:28

    First things first, Mtngoat needs to put in PRISON, throwing projectiles at a Moving Vehicle is a FELONY, I hope CalWatch forwards your info to the Authorities for your ADMITTED FELONIOUS ACTIONS. Now as for the bicycle clowns, as a matter of personal responsibility, whenever I come to a Stop sign and see a bicycle coming the other way, I stop and then cross right in front of the asshole that refuses to stop at the STOP SIGN, needless to say this has almost caused numerous bicyclists to crash and all of them start screaming, until I scream back, you are also supposed to OBEY THE SAME TRAFFIC LAWS as me ASSHOLE, then I threaten to call the Police and have them Arrested for RECKLESS DRIVING after they Purposely blew through a Strop sign or Red Light and almost crashed into me.

    Reply this comment
  13. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 13 September, 2012, 10:15

    I like riding a bike but if mtngoat ever throws batteries at me driving. I will circle around and use the ax under my car seat as a fair rebuttal.

    Reply this comment
  14. Edward Steele, Chief Investigator
    Edward Steele, Chief Investigator 13 September, 2012, 10:27

    we remain a primative and violent people.

    Reply this comment
  15. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 13 September, 2012, 13:19

    Edward, How true! The batteries should stay in the pocket. I am in the market for a morganstern. It is also quite effective against bike riding battery tossers.

    Reply this comment
  16. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 14 September, 2012, 00:06

    we remain a primative and violent people
    =====

    I am going to violently destory your sock puppets Teddy 😉

    Reply this comment
  17. Ian Brett Cooper
    Ian Brett Cooper 14 September, 2012, 03:37

    This article raised my ire, and the annoying thing about it is that, as an integrated cyclist, I agree with most of what the author is saying.

    I think he’s right that AB 819 is probably a wasteful law. The road, in my opinion, is safest for cyclists. Adding specialized bicycle facilities only complicates matters. This bill encourages bike facility production, and I think that’s a mistake. Cyclists belong on the road, not shunted off into some side path, where they are at heightened risk for intersection collisions.

    I disagree with him on SB 1464 – I think it will probably do some good, if only in terms of helping cyclists be less likely to be found at fault when an overzealous police officer cites them for impeding traffic. Its problem is that in terms of what it’s supposedly aimed at doing, it is unenforceable.

    I agree that AB 2245 seems a little odd. I would hope that all road improvements would go through a process to ensure they are necessary, harmless and actually useful. Sadly, bike facilities are all too often unnecessary, harmful and useless. This bill seems set to make the problem even worse.

    But I do have a problem with the article. It’s not really his points that I have a problem with – it’s the anti-cycling attitude that they’re drenched in. Here are some excerpts:

    “SB 1464 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would require drivers on a two-lane road to veer at least three feet around a cyclist to pass.”

    To ‘veer’. I wonder if the author refers to ‘veering’ when he’s overtaking a slower motor vehicle. I suspect not. ‘Veering’ sounds uncontrolled, like a swerve, and doesn’t suggest competence by whoever it is that’s doing the driving. If cars are ‘veering’ around cyclists, maybe California does need that 3ft passing law.

    “The bicycling lobby has become almost as pushy as the environmental lobby. They resent that streets were designed for cars”

    Apparently, requiring motorists to behave safely around cyclists is ‘being pushy’? Yeah, those uppity cyclists! If only we could lynch a few of them to show who’s boss. Also, the author has no idea that streets were developed long before the automobile appeared on them, and that the first improved roads were lobbied for by cyclists for cyclists.

    “I am hoping that legislators introduces a bill mandating bicyclists to follow traffic laws.”

    Erm… that law already exists in the California Traffic Code. I wonder if the author has read the California Driver Handbook, which states:

    “Bicyclists:

    Have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers.
    Must obey all traffic signals and stop signs.”

    Having said that, I expect all cyclists to follow the law at about the same time all motorists start following it – that should happen about when Hell freezes over. If there’s a benefit to cyclists failing to follow traffic law, it’s that their vehicles weigh a lot less than motor vehicles, so when they do stupid things and crash into people, they tend not to kill folks. When motorists do stupid things, they are driving 2 ton vehicles, with the result that a million people worldwide are killed every year in automobile accidents.

    Clearly, the author is a motorist with a big blind spot when it comes to motorists posing a danger to cyclists. If it were not for this blind spot, maybe he would understand that cyclists ought to be treated with some respect on the road. I find his assertion that cyclists are ‘being pushy’ by demanding that motorists drive safely very telling.

    Reply this comment
  18. Khal Spencer
    Khal Spencer 14 September, 2012, 05:18

    I’m a Dem, a bicyclist, motorcyclist, and motorist. As our county’s transportation board chair for several years, I worked quite well with a mostly GOP County Council and we found we had vast common ground supporting bicycling efforts while not having to take sides in the silly car vs bike wars.

    So one suggestion to the Watchdog: dispense with the cheap shots, inaccurate assertions, and silly stereotypes and work on government reform. California has enough problems already. Your house is on fire, and you are putting it out with gasoline.

    Equally dispassionate observer Ian Brett Cooper has some good thoughts here and I suggest folks go read them.
    http://ianbrettcooper.blogspot.com/2012/09/i-just-spotted-article-at-cal-watchdog.html

    Reply this comment
  19. Ian Brett Cooper
    Ian Brett Cooper 14 September, 2012, 05:57

    “I was told point blank by a highway patrol officer that 99% of the incidents on Highway 9 or the roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains that involve a bicycle are the fault of the cyclist.”

    Highway patrol officers don’t ride bikes. Maybe that’s why they can’t see when the motorist is responsible (which has been found to be in half of all bicycle-car collisions. The myopia exists, but it’s not where you seem to think it is.

    Reply this comment
  20. Ian Brett Cooper
    Ian Brett Cooper 14 September, 2012, 06:52

    The author is a ‘she’. Silly me for getting angry at the content before checking the gender of the person who wrote the article, LOL.

    Reply this comment
  21. Ian Brett Cooper
    Ian Brett Cooper 14 September, 2012, 08:03

    “Most of these bike riders are of course Dem’s. When will it stop? The word bicycle does not appear in the Counstitution.”

    Neither does the word ‘car’, because neither the car nor the bicycle were invented then. If firearms had not been around at that time, they wouldn’t have been mentioned either, and we might have only a right to bear swords today.

    Jeez!

    Reply this comment
  22. Damien Newton
    Damien Newton 14 September, 2012, 09:49

    Does this publication require fact checking? This article is embarrassing. The author is entitled to their opinions, but some basic knowledge of the issue would be helpful.

    In order:

    AB 819, by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, would allow cities to begin designing unique bicycling lanes and customized signage….We need a law for this?
    ————–
    Yes, because cities need to conform to road design manuals published by the state. These forbid the new kind of signage without going through a lengthy approval process. This change actually streamlines government bureaucracy.

    An almost identical bill was vetoed by the Gov. Jerry Brown last year. In his veto message, the governor expressed concern that the slow passing speed could increase rear-end collisions and create backups.
    ————–
    As the author points out, the Governor had concerns with certain language in the bill. That language was changed in the current one. It’s not “almost identical,” although it does have the same goals.

    After Villaraigosa crashed his bike into a taxi cab in Los Angeles, he became the bicycling community’s biggest advocate.
    —————
    Villaraigosa was forced off a bike when a taxi moved from a parking space into a traffic lane without yielding. There was no collision.

    Los Angeles is suffering under staggering debt, the bus system is cutting routes and raising fares, and many wonder how the city will find the money to put in all of the new bicycle lanes.
    —————
    Much of the new plan will be funded through a small set aside from the county-wide sales tax passed by 67% of the voters. Each city gets a small portion of the tax to deal with local transportation issues and L.A. set a portion of that portion aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects. “One” might wonder, but you’d think a reporter would use the Interwebs to actually look something like that up.

    The coalition apparently is the only source of information the committee analysts used.
    —————
    AAA, the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, and at least four cities have all testified in favor of the bill.

    At LADOT’s current bike-lane construction rate of 40 miles per year, however, the mayor will be 93 years old before his promise comes true.
    —————
    Los Angeles built 75 miles of new bikeways last year, the first full calendar year under the new bike plan.

    I am hoping that legislators introduces a bill mandating bicyclists to follow traffic laws.
    ————–
    There is already a law requiring this.

    Reply this comment
  23. Calimig
    Calimig 14 September, 2012, 10:35

    1. The expectation to ride a bicycle safely demonstrates a far lesser sense of entitlement than expecting you are entitled to drive anywhere without encountering congestion or impediments
    2. by the vehicle code in every state, bicycles are entitled to uses most streets, regardless of whether there is a bike lane. In many instances, particularly without bike lanes an lane widths less than 13-14 feet a bicyclist is entirely within their rights to ride in the middle of the lane as it is a safer condition for them and the motorist. Don’t like it, too bad, check your vehicle code you are wrong. That was obviously too much to ask from this author.
    3. when you encounter such a cyclist, the delay from going around them is something like a whole 30 seconds and they’ll probably catch up to you at the next intersection. The vast majority of congestion experienced by cars is from other cars… the more people on bikes the less congestion you would typically encounter. Stop reacting and start thinking.

    While there are rude cyclists who don’t follow the law, your generalizations are less than productive. I suppose since I see drivers who don’t come to complete stops or exceed the posted speed limit, I should assume you are all complete a-holes with no regard for the law, right?

    Reply this comment
  24. Ian Brett Cooper
    Ian Brett Cooper 14 September, 2012, 15:11

    ““One” might wonder, but you’d think a reporter would use the Interwebs to actually look something like that up.”

    Yeah, but too much research and there would be no story, because there is no real story here, except in Katy Grimes’ mind. These hacks get paid for words, not for facts, and words come quickest when you have an axe to grind. They come quite a bit slower when you have to make a real point and know what you’re talking about.

    Reply this comment
  25. Khal Spencer
    Khal Spencer 15 September, 2012, 06:30

    I suggest someone offer to go for a bike ride with Katy. Any tandem readers out there? She is, from the picture of her, a physically fit author, if not a well informed and reasoned one, at least on this topic. One catches more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    Katy?

    Reply this comment
  26. Steve A
    Steve A 15 September, 2012, 11:32

    I checked the full text of that AB and found no veering requirement at all. Prompted by further curiosity, I could find no mention of veering requirements anyplace else in the vehicle or transportation codes of California or Texas. I wish Katy would clarify her intent in picking that particular word. Might she be attempting to emulate the tactics of lefty commentators who are well known for using hot button words in what pretend to be reasonable arguments? She’d have been better off to stick with an “equal laws, equal rights and to heck with the feel good nonsense” theme.

    Reply this comment

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