Ammiano wants to change bike laws

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Assemblymember Tom Ammiano wants to change the way bicycles and cars are treated under state traffic laws.

He's responding in part to the furor over the bike crackdowns in Berkeley, but it's nothing new for Ammiano -- he also tried to get bicycle traffic legislation through last year. This time, though, he told me, "I think we're going to be able to pass something." And incoming Gov. Jerry Brown ought to be willing to sign it.

Matt Bunch, an Ammiano staffer, told me that the bill isn't final, but will certainly address the penalty for cars hitting bicycles. "A lot of these are preventable, but they're treated as accidents," he said. "They aren't punished adequately."

The measure could also address the wide disparity in traffic fines that bicyclists face in different cities and take on the Berkelely problem. "The fine you get depends on what they charge you with, and it's all over the map," Bunch said.

Bunch also suggested that Ammiano might be looking at the way some police officers in some jurisdictions charge bicyclists with vehicle-code violations that were written to apply to cars. "The vehicle code isn't specific to bikes," he said. "There's a clear deficiency in law, and we're going to look at it."

One of the things they ought to be checking out: Why is it okay to make a biker get a point on his or her drivers license when he or she isn't driving a motor vehicle?

Go, Tom. I'll keep you posted when the bill is introduced.