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.

 

Comments

I know that someone said it in the Chron, but it just isn't true -- "Any violation occurring as a pedestrian or a bicyclist has no point assigned." http://dmv.ca.gov/dl/vioptct.htm

Posted by triplezero on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

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."

Posted by matlock on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

"Accident" suggests that the event that happened could not have been prevented, whereas the majority of traffic collisions is the result of human error and could be avoided. In other words, typically, someone is at fault, so collisions are not accidents.

In traffic safety circles, we talk about "collisions" or "crashes", not "accidents", specifically to make the distinction between events that could have been prevented and events that are truly accidental.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

Then there are no accidents it sounds like because I don't know if there are that many faultless, cars running into each other.

If a person is running a yellow and kills someone that should be manslaughter right? Or reckless endangerment?

Maybe this all can be included in some bike hate crime legislation?

Posted by matlock on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

Your logic is off. "The majority of traffic collisions is [sic] the result of human error and could be avoided." That does not imply collisions are not accidents. It implies some collisions are accidents and some are not.

The word "collision" has no connotation whatsoever concerning it's being preventable or not. And "preventable" itself is problematic. What if someone's brakes fail, and as a result s/he hits another car. Was the collision preventable? Sure: better manufacturing QC.

In any case a particular collision's being an accident requires some agreed upon conventions of language use, which we surely have.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

We need to change stop sign laws like Idaho did.

Cars and bicycles are very different machines, with different needs and responsibilities, and holding them to the same rigid standards is absurd and harmful.

Posted by Aaron on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

Yes, we need to do this.

I'd like to see limits on enforcement against cyclists proportional to the danger and risk that cyclist violations cause.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

Where is it written that the punishment for transgressing laws has to be responsible for the damage that theoretically could have been caused?

If cyclists want equal rights, e.g. to use the full lane width, and to be treated as fully entitled vehicles, then they have to accept equal reponsibilities.

So which is it that you want for cyclists? Diminished status with lessor fines? Or full rights with full accountibility?

Think carefully before you answer.

Posted by Tom on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

It's not written, and that's the problem. It just makes sense. Operating a motor vehicle on our streets has very, very different ramifications than riding a bike. Bikes are as vulnerable to cars as pedestrians are. Cars are only vulnerable to... well, other cars (and trucks).

People on bikes do have their share responsibilities - such as using lights at night and to ride predictably and cautiously. But if you are hit by a car on a bike, wouldn't you think holding you to the same standard, wouldn't you feel like it's a little unfair? In many European countries as well as Japan (and possibly others), the law is "strict liability" for drivers - they are automatically at fault for crashes with vulnerable road users unless the car literally wasn't moving or in rare cases proven to be unavoidable. The same goes for bikes hitting pedestrians.

By equalizing the responsibilities of bikes and cars, we are doing what's called "ignoring the bull in the China shop".

Posted by Aaron on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

"People on bikes do have their share responsibilities - such as using lights at night and to ride predictably and cautiously. But if you are hit by a car on a bike, wouldn't you think holding you to the same standard, wouldn't you feel like it's a little unfair? In many European countries as well as Japan (and possibly others), the law is "strict liability" for drivers - they are automatically at fault for crashes with vulnerable road users unless the car literally wasn't moving or in rare cases proven to be unavoidable"

So you want to have the law assume that the car is always at fault? Then I also assume that you are willing to support severely increasing penalties for cyclists that break rules such as running red lights/stop signs, riding the wrong way, passing cars on the right that are turning right, riding without lights and any other action which contributes to car/cycle accidents.

Posted by Iggywan on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

Well, that's a pretty nonsensical assumption... the truth is, none of those behaviors (or anything anyone can do on a bike) endangers anyone driving a car - only themselves (and occasionally pedestrians, though not close to that of cars). Again, cycling education from an early age is something we need, and cyclists should be reasonably visible, but as far as penalties and responsibility, automobiles are the ones causing the danger.

Posted by Aaron on Dec. 18, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

I don't think bicyclists want the whole lane so much as a designated bicycle lane!

Posted by GrannyGear on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

We want to be acknowledged as having the same right to be on the road. Designated bike lanes are nice but also help defeat the equal rights we are looking for because uninformed individuals think we should be in one.

I Christmas wish is for all involved (cars and cyclists) to practice tolerance for each other.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

Bicyclists don't pay anything as far as gas taxes or vehicle registration fees - if you want to use it, start paying for it.

The Guardian has never answered the question as to where the replacement revenues are going to come from for road maintenance as less and less money flows into the funds used to maintain the roads. Is their answer just to squeeze and squeeze the remaining drivers harder and harder while bicyclists get, literally, a free ride?

A modest $25 per-year bicycle registration fee could go a long way towards convincing society that bicyclists want to share the burdens of road maintenance. Otherwise this hostile attitude drivers have towards bicyclists, who many consider law-breaking freeloaders, is going to continue.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

Do you enjoy proving yourself to be a horse's ass?
Are you really so dense that you believe gas taxes and vehicle registration fees are the only source of funding for SF DPT, Caltrans and the Us Department of Transportation?
If not, why make such a stupid and easily refuted argument?

Perhaps bicycle owners simply use the roads "on an ancillary basis" as you claim to. Would that make it acceptable?

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.
Dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying.
See?
This perfectly explains your endless angry prattle about how you are special and better, and your self-righteous judgments of the people who have the misfortune of sharing this city with you.

Conflicting ideas like:
" I don't avail myself of a single city service"
-Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 9:32 pm
and
"I don't. And the ones I DO use ... I already PAY for."
-Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 12, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

How does one use city services like police, roads and parks on an “ancillary basis”? What does that even mean?

Well?
Which is it?
Do you not avail yourself of a single city service?
Or were you just full of shit when you wrote that?

You can read up on your condition here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
In the meantime you should probably give your bullshit train a rest.
At least until you figure out how to construct a paragraph without contradicting yourself.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

User fees pay over 50% of highway funds, non-users pay around 35% and bonds make up the rest. And since all of those services you voraciously consume are delivered via the roads I guess you'll be happy with your meager contribution.

But since 47% of people pay no income taxes, and you're no doubt one of those, you're actually, yes, a mooch on the system.

Look up "mooch" in Urban Dictionary.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

Number one, " you're no doubt one of those"... seriously? Get a clue, lots of cyclists make plenty of money and still choose to ride bikes because it is the smartest way to get around the city.

Number two, it is actually about 60% of usury fees that make up transportation funding in California, but it seems as though a fair percentage would be considerably higher considering that much of that spending goes towards highways, bridges, and other projects where bike traffic is not allowed, and that cars require much more expensive infrastructure improvements and do much more damage to the existing roads that bicycles. On top of that cars and gasoline are already highly subsidized by the government, the price of which comes out of everyone's pockets, and there are a host of other hidden costs in terms of air quality, cheap parking, and many other quality of life issues.

Currently a fraction of one percent of all transportation funding goes toward bicycle-specific improvement projects, and with the bicycle traffic share significantly higher than that in San Francisco and most other bay area cities, it is the cyclists who should be complaining about not getting their money's worth, not the car drivers!

Posted by prinzrob on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

1) Source of 50% of highway funds?

2) Note that a majority of highways prohibit cyclists and pedestrians; (and that per-mile, the ones they are prohibited on are the most expensive to build).

3) Source 47% pay no income tax?

4) Assuming all above is true, bitch at the 47% who don't pay income tax to fund their own car driving -- not the individual on a bike trying to get to work without being harassed or run over.

Posted by triplezero on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

Lucretia -

Where are you getting any of these numbers?

"The majority of those funds are paid for by taxes and fees levied to the general public, whether or not they own a car."

So in fact, non-driving citizens heavily subsidize those who do drive. In fact, the government should be paying people to cycle.

Posted by Aaron on Dec. 18, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

Bicycles also have far less impact on the road than cars do. The people you really should be looking at are truck drivers who utilize public roads and account for the vast majority of damage and repairs needed.

Posted by Belgand on Dec. 17, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

Tom, if we have scarce resources to spend on policing, then we should allocate those resources in a way that reflects the potential harm and damage that law breaking can bring.

Right now, cops get to call their own work plan, deciding what to enforce and what to ignore essentially at their pleasure. We cannot afford that kind of discretion when we face law enforcement problems where the priorities of the cops in what they enforce are not those of the communities who have to deal with the consequences and which pay the cops' salaries.

DPH should determine scientifically what the risks are on the road and the cops should triage enforcement with an eye towards mitigating the most, dangerous risks per DPH's numbers.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Dec. 14, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

Tom,

In our society, the punishment one receives for a crime is based on the severity of the crime. The severity of the crime is determined by the consequences of that crime or, in the case that it was an *attempted* criminal act, the consequences that *could* have resulted. Hence the reason you get punished a lot more severely for killing someone than stealing from them (or from trying to kill someone versus trying to still from them).

Same goes for traffic. If you drive a vehicle (car) that puts other users of our streets (pedestrians and cyclists) in danger (not to mention all the other externalized costs of cars, from environmental destruction to their contribution to the obesity epidemic), then when you violate a law, the punishment must be much more severe. That is common sense.

And cyclists don't want equal rights in the sense that they want to be treated the same as cars. They want their *own* rights which recognize the bicycles are most certainly not cars and should be governed by different rules. Bicycles are *not* cars at all since they weigh orders of magnitude less, travel at much lower speeds, are more nimble, and their operators do not have their senses dulled like those of cars. It is ridiculous to try and tell cyclists to follow rules which were not at all designed for them, just as it would be ridiculous to pit a soccer team against a basketball team and call the soccer team for traveling or the basketball team for handballs. When we design our cities and laws with cyclists considered, the results look very different, for example, green separate bike lanes, lights for cyclists only, laws like those in Idaho, etc.

And you speak of bicyclists somehow shirking accountability. You want to talk about shirking accountability, look at how the damage cars cause to our environment, our health, and the livability of our cities has been completely ignored. We talk about them like they can only be a good thing and, as a society, are almost completing ignoring their problems. We act as if there is no other way to get around in our cities. That is what I call avoiding accountability. If everybody cycled instead of drove, the world would be a much, much, much better place. To ignore that in this sort of discussion is irrational.

Posted by jd on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 11:54 am

Tom,

In our society, the punishment one receives for a crime is based on the severity of the crime. The severity of the crime is determined by the consequences of that crime or, in the case that it was an *attempted* criminal act, the consequences that *could* have resulted. Hence the reason you get punished a lot more severely for killing someone than stealing from them (or from trying to kill someone versus trying to still from them).

Same goes for traffic. If you drive a vehicle (car) that puts other users of our streets (pedestrians and cyclists) in danger (not to mention all the other externalized costs of cars, from environmental destruction to their contribution to the obesity epidemic), then when you violate a law, the punishment must be much more severe. That is common sense.

And cyclists don't want equal rights in the sense that they want to be treated the same as cars. They want their *own* rights which recognize the bicycles are most certainly not cars and should be governed by different rules. Bicycles are *not* cars at all since they weigh orders of magnitude less, travel at much lower speeds, are more nimble, and their operators do not have their senses dulled like those of cars. It is ridiculous to try and tell cyclists to follow rules which were not at all designed for them, just as it would be ridiculous to pit a soccer team against a basketball team and call the soccer team for traveling or the basketball team for handballs. When we design our cities and laws with cyclists considered, the results look very different, for example, green separate bike lanes, lights for cyclists only, laws like those in Idaho, etc.

And you speak of bicyclists somehow shirking accountability. You want to talk about shirking accountability, look at how the damage cars cause to our environment, our health, and the livability of our cities has been completely ignored. We talk about them like they can only be a good thing and, as a society, are almost completing ignoring their problems. We act as if there is no other way to get around in our cities. That is what I call avoiding accountability. If everybody cycled instead of drove, the world would be a much, much, much better place. To ignore that in this sort of discussion is irrational.

Posted by jd on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 11:56 am

I hope this legislation also includes mandatory licensing and registration for cyclists and their vehicles. The public deserves to know that cyclists have been educated on traffic laws, and the cyclists need to pay their fair share for bike lanes and roadways.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 8:40 am

Cyclists already do pay their fair share. As a matter of fact, if you factor in maintenance costs for the roadways based on vehicle size and weight, cyclists are subsidizing the costs of heavier vehicles. As a cyclist, I don't mind, we all need to share the road, but this meme that cyclists don't pay their fair share needs to die.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 10:20 am

As a Pedestrian, I am regularly at odds with both cars and bikes. I think both should be accountable for their behavior on the streets.
So should the cyclist be allowed to "roll" through a stop sign? In my mind no. give them a ticket, take away a "Cycle License" (which does not exist).
I believe the right to drive a car or ride a bike is a privilege, which should be taken away for violations.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

Given your skepticism of government, Chris, I'm surprised that you want to put government in the role of regulating who may ride a bike. But you're wrong to call it a privlege -- it's a right. The California Motor Vehicle Code explicitly states that driving an automobile is a privilege and not a right. Why? Because cars are potentially deadly weapons that require training and maturity to operate safely, and society reserves the right to revoke that privilege when a driver behaves irresponsibly because they cause thousands of deaths each year. But despite the misleading argument you and others make that bikes endanger citizens, cyclists almost never kill or seriously injure anyone but themselves, a statistically insignificant occurence akin to deaths from debris falling from high-rises (but you don't seek to ban windows or balconies). Like mobility itself, riding a bike is a right and not a privilege. And I agree with previous commenters that laws should better distinguish between cyclists and motorists.

Posted by steven on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

Bicyclists should be required to have adequate lighting on the front and rear of their bicycles. At night if a driver looks in his rear view mirror and sees nothing and after he or she opens the car door and a bicyclist with no front light runs into it and is hurt, whose fault is it? It's the bicyclist's fault because without a light on the front of the bicycle, it can't be seen at night. The law should be changed to require the front light (to be kept in operating condition). After the passage of the law, give cyclists 30 days to comply and if any don't, confiscate the bicycle. Bicycles without lights are very, very dangerous.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

Where do people get the idea that cyclists do not pay their share for the use of the roads? To begin with, something like 95% of cyclists own and drive cars so most cyclists pay gas taxes and registration fees. If they pay less in gas taxes by cycling, then we must remember that gas taxes are often referred to as "consumption taxes." Those that consume the most, pay the most. What could be more fair? Although I personally do not own an automobile, I own a home and pay property taxes which are substantially higher than the average motorist pays in gas taxes. Besides prop taxes I also pay income taxes, sales taxes, alcohol taxes and yes, gas taxes when I rent a car. It is the motorist in ths country who is getting the free ride. According to a study by the RAND Corporation, motorists only pay directly in user fees about 40% of the actual cost of driving. The lion share is paid by the tax payer whether that tax payer drives or not. And I haven't even mentioned the military cost of protecting the flow of oil from the middle east or the health care costs imposed on society by the drunken or uninsured drivers.

Posted by Guest Terry on Dec. 21, 2010 @ 3:19 am