Legislation  
Protecting bicyclists requires tougher penalties  

CBC has amended its bill to protect bicyclists and pedestrians by extending protections to all roadway users and toughening penalties.

Assembly Bill 1951, authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, would turn injury-causing traffic infractions into misdemeanors and increase existing penalties. The bill is the centerpiece of CBC’s 2010 legislative agenda.

Ammiano amended the bill last week after the California District Attorneys Association promised to fight an earlier version of the bill that would have created a new class of traffic penalties specifically for injuring bicyclists, pedestrians and other road users who are particularly vulnerable in motor vehicle collisions. As amended, AB 1951 addresses all victims of injury-causing collisions, including other motorists.

Current state law treats rule-of-the-road violations such as failing to stop or yield as infractions. Base fines for infractions that cause injury or “great bodily injury” are $70 and $95 respectively.

AB 1951 would set the minimum base fine at $145, equal to the base fine for misdemeanor reckless driving without injury, and also impose a jail sentence.

By treating such offenses as misdemeanors, the bill would ensure that more injury collisions are reviewed in court, eliminating some problems caused by limited enforcement. Collisions that injure bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users routinely go unpunished when law enforcement officers are unable to cite motorists due to insufficient information about the motorist’s intent.

In 2009 a longtime Marin County bicyclist suffered a shattered clavicle, two broken ribs and other injuries requiring surgery when he was struck by a minivan whose uninsured driver didn’t stop after hitting him. The motorist later turned herself in to local police, who found her at fault but did not cite her. The investigating officer told the victim he’d handled more than 100 bike-car collisions in Marin County without ever citing a motorist.

CBC hopes to add traffic school and community service as penalties so that careless drivers learn about how to share the road safely. AB 1951 would not affect penalties for reckless or negligent driving, including driving under the influence.

 

Traffic control devices  
Caltrans plans first bike box 

CBC is urging a Caltrans advisory panel to recommend approval of an experimental bike box along State Route 227 near downtown San Luis Obispo. 

Caltrans District 5 proposes painting the box at the intersection of S.R. 277 (Madonna Road) and South Higuera Street to test whether it can help prevent collisions between vehicles making right turns and bicycles traveling straight through. The box would be the first installed by Caltrans. 

District staff designed the box to serve as one possible model for bike box standards. Because the California Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices does not have bike box standards, the district’s bike box would be considered experimental. 

Developed in Europe and Asia in the 1980s, bike boxes are used in the U.S. in New York City, Portland, Ore., Eugene, Ore.; Madison, Wis., and Cambridge, Mass. Last December San Francisco installed California’s first bike box, followed shortly with one installed by the city of Long Beach. 

The California Bicycle Advisory Committee, which advises Caltrans, meets on April 8 to consider recommending approval of the district’s proposal. On April 15 the California Traffic Control Devices Committee, which sets traffic control standards in California, will take up the proposal. 

CBC supports the experimental use of innovative traffic control devices to help find the most effective ways to protect roadway users.

You can get more information on the California Bicycle Coalition at http://calbike.org