California considers a bicycle a vehicle, just like a car or any other motor vehicle, and cyclists must comply with all traffic codes and right-of-way laws.
Some safety advocates believe applying rules meant for motor vehicles to bicycles actually make the streets less safe for everyone.
Governor vetoes ‘safety stop’ bill
Late this summer, Assembly Bill 122 passed the California State Assembly and Senate by wide margins. The bill would have allowed bicyclists to proceed through stop signs without coming to a complete stop as long as no other traffic approached the intersection – effectively treating them as yield signs.
The “safety stop” bill is similar to laws in nearly a dozen other states, where collisions between bicycles and cars declined, according to advocates. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the measure on Oct. 8, saying he feared the opposite would happen.
Governor cites statistics in veto
Fatalities and injury accidents have risen significantly in California since 2010. In vetoing the measure, Newsom cited state traffic records from one intersection, where 3,059 collisions occurred since 2015. The key takeaways were:
- Failure to stop at a stop sign was the primary cause of accidents
- Bicyclists were at fault for 88% of accidents resulting in fatalities and 63% of those involving injuries
Newsom said the legislation was especially concerning for children, who are less able to judge vehicle speeds and exercise appropriate caution to yield to other traffic.
Bicyclist advocates express disappointment
The California Bicycle Coalition, also known as CalBike, says these laws are effective in other states, citing a recent Delaware study that concluded bicycle collisions at intersections decreased by 23% after a similar measure went into effect.
The group says no other states that have implemented these laws have reported any safety problems. Both CalBike and Newsom say they remain committed to encouraging more people to choose cycling as a safe mode of travel while reducing carbon emissions.