AB 1941 Update :: March 31, 2006

                                                                  AB 1941
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Date of Hearing: April 3, 2006

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
Jenny Oropeza, Chair
AB 1941 (Nava) - As Amended: March 21, 2006

SUBJECT
: Vehicles: bicycles

SUMMARY : Specifies a minimum distance that a vehicle must
maintain between itself and a bicycle upon a highway.
Specifically, this bill :

1)Allows a vehicle to be driven in a designated two-way
left-turn lane for purposes of overtaking and passing a
bicycle.

2)Prohibits a vehicle from driving in a designated two-way
left-turn lane, for purposes of overtaking and passing a
bicycle or merging into the adjacent lanes of travel, for more
than 200 feet.

3)Requires the driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle
proceeding in the same direction to pass at a minimum of three
feet, without interfering with the safe operation of the
overtaken bicycle.

4)Assesses a base fine of $250 ($875 total) for failing to pass
a bicycle at a minimum distance of three feet.

5)Makes it a felony or a misdemeanor, which is punishable by
imprisonment in the county jail or state prison upon
conviction, for a person driving a motor vehicle to cause
great bodily injury or death to the bicyclist.

6)Makes technical, non-substantive changes.

EXISTING LAW :

1)States that a driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle
or bicycle proceeding in the same direction is required to
pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with
the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle.

2)Makes it an infraction subject to a $100 base fine for a first
conviction, and up to a $250 fine for a 3rd and subsequent








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convictions occurring within one year of two or more prior
infractions.

3)Prohibits a vehicle from driving in a designated two-way
left-turn lane, except when preparing to enter or exit into a
highway or make a U-turn when permitted by law.

FISCAL EFFECT : Unknown

COMMENTS : According to the author, current law provides "vague
and inadequate protections for bicyclists who are passed on the
roads by motor vehicles." Consequently, this bill seeks to
establish a three foot distance between motorists and bicyclists
on highways. In addition, this bill would also require that a
motorist use a two-way left-turn lane, for up to 200 feet, to
pass a bicyclist. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) states
that between 2000 and 2005, that at least 588 injuries and 7
deaths have occurred statewide as a result of accidents
involving motorists and bicyclists in California. This includes
former University of California Santa Barbara tri-athlete Kendra
Chiota Payne, who according to the author, was crushed by a
truck while cycling on Gibraltar Road, a county road in Santa
Barbara County.

Current law for a vehicle overtaking a bicycle is similar to the
"Basic Speed Law" which states that: "No person shall drive a
vehicle at a speed than is reasonable or prudent having due
regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface
and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which
endangers the safety of persons or property."

Consequently, if the speed limit is 65 miles per hour (mph), a
vehicle traveling at 55 mph while it is raining outside may
still pose a traffic safety threat on our roadways. The
broadness of the statute allows flexibility in determining
whether or not the driver's behavior is a threat to others. The
same principle can be applied to current law regarding
overtaking a bicycle. Each road presents a unique set of
variables that forces drivers and cyclists alike to use their
judgment when they are on the road. The three foot minimum for
overtaking a bicycle as proposed by this bill may not be
possible due to certain road (narrow lanes, lack of a shoulder
or bike lane, double yellow lines, size of vehicles, and parked
cars, amongst other physical impediments) or weather conditions.
Allowing a motorist to travel for up to 200 feet in a double








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left turn lane may place the motorist at risk of having a
collision with oncoming traffic.

The California Bicycle Coalition (CBC), who is in support of
this bill, states that "every accident that has occurred in
California is a direct result of poor road conditions, improper
operation of a motor vehicle, and lack of education on the right
of way for bicyclists." Furthermore, the CBC states that
"motorists are exclusively at-fault in 60% of car/bike
collisions."

The California Teamsters Public Affairs Council (Teamsters), who
is in opposition, states that "commercial truck drivers would be
faced with situations where passing a cyclist would be
impossible without either violating the buffer zone or crossing
over into incoming traffic." In addition, the Teamsters object
to a driver "facing a potential felony charge even when the
cyclist is swerving."

The committee may wish to consider whether existing law is
sufficient or if establishing a three foot distance is practical
given that certain road and weather conditions may not allow a
motorist the opportunity to pass a cyclist on a highway.

In addition, the committee may wish to consider whether it is a
safe practice to allow a motorist to drive in a two-way
left-turn lane for a distance of 200 feet and whether that
practice would endanger the motorist from oncoming traffic.

Finally, the committee may wish to consider whether additional
literature should be prepared by the Department of Motor
Vehicles that raises the awareness of the responsibilities that
both motorists and cyclists have when operating on our highways.


REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION :

Support

California Bicycle Coalition
427 Individual Letters

Opposition

Amalgamated Transit Union








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California Teamsters Public Affairs Council

Analysis Prepared by
: Gus F. Khouri / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093