By Phil Coleman, President, Davis Bike Club
Beginning with its introduction in the California Assembly in February the so-called Bike Yield law was in trouble. Powerful lobby groups representing 32 million motorists were skeptical and resentful of proposed traffic law modifications that favored cyclists. Law enforcement spoke of the confusion and difficulty of selective enforcement, and advocacy groups for the blind feared noiseless bikes entering intersections at any speed.
Proponents went to work and garnered an impressive number of endorsements from cycling and environmental groups throughout the State. As the bill began its tortuous journey through committee hearings, however, it became apparent that the Bike Yield law was still falling short of committee passage. This is typical of reform legislation of any variety; often passage requires several introductions and amendments in successive legislative sessions.
The bill’s authors obtained an extension for another year. They noted that support and opposition to their measure was widely scattered. Numerous communities and urban areas having core groups of active cyclists, with poor air quality and too many cars, strongly supported legislative action that advanced cycling as an alternative means of transportation. But there were more communities who did not have these variables, and their elected representatives remained neutral or in opposition.
In response, the thrust and wording of AB-1103 was completely transformed. Now, the Bike Yield bill no longer attempts to make this Vehicle Code amendment a State-wide measure. Facing almost certain failure, the authors made a brilliant tactical move by making this bike-friendly measure a local option, using the Tenth Amendment concept of Home Rule.
The revised bill now empowers local government entities, namely cities, to implement its own Bike Yield ordinance for intersections they identify within its jurisdiction. The State would retain some modest overall control by requiring local jurisdictions to identify these stop/yield intersections to the CHP, and to report collision and enforcement patterns at such intersections. Compliance with federal traffic signage is mandated and this pilot plan would have an operational life through Year 2024.
While much of the current political opposition to this measure would be eliminated or minimized with the home rule option, another argument rises to prominence. Critics could now say that motorists and pedestrians would be confused by the disparity at stop sign intersections from one community to another.
A rebuttal would be that home rule exemptions are found in numerous communities and regions throughout California. Legislative sanction of home rule exceptions for districts and corridors have long existed and citizens have managed to adapt well. Bike/Yield proponents can begin to compile similar traffic-related examples, which would include local authority for determining designated commercial truck routes and vehicle weight restrictions.
Were this bill to become law, Davis can advance further its heritage of being, “The City of Bicycles.” Using our proven history and ability to mobilize our abundant volunteer and monetary resources, the Davis Bike Club could promote creation designated bike traffic corridors, encouraging transit cyclists to use these roadways. Intersections in these corridors controlled by stop signs would have bike/yield signs added to allow safer and more efficient movement by bicycle.
A public awareness campaign would be organized, and directed towards all users of our streets–motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. Finally, entry into our community by visitors is largely concentrated in a few locations. We could place signs of prominence to these visitors, proclaiming, “This is a Bike/Yield Community.”
Davis has always prided itself as being innovative and environmentally aware, and some of our pioneering efforts were cycling-related. We soon could have another opportunity, employing a Bike/Yield ordinance. The result would serve as a model program of bike travel safety and efficiency that could be embraced by other California communities.