Friday, April 29, 2011

SB910 gutted?

Yesterday I hit refresh on my screen yesterday morning, and I saw this ( link )... the text of SB910, the bill supposedly requiring a 3 foot passing buffer when drivers pass cyclists, was revised.

Changed from:
21750.1. (a) (1) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance, at a minimum clearance of three feet, at a speed not exceeding 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of the bicycle, without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle.

To:
21750. 1. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance, at a minimum clearance of three feet or at a speed not exceeding 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of the bicycle, without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle.

Wow -- talk about flip flop from replacing a comma with an or. So it's now considered safe to blow by a cyclist riding 20 mph going 45 mph within one foot of the rider? Now it's clearly too weak.

Not to mention the penalty has been substantially reduced, from felony to a $220 fine. We're not talking petty infraction here: the key text is "causes great bodily injury".

(b) If a person operates a motor vehicle in violation of subdivision (a) and that conduct proximately causes great bodily injury, as defined in subdivision (f) of Section 12022.7 of the Penal Code, or death to the bicycle operator, the person driving the motor vehicle, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail or in the state prison. (b) A violation of subdivision (a) is an infraction punishable by a fine of two hundred twenty dollars ($220).

One plus: Joe Simitian used to run a "It outta be a law" contest in which citizens could submit proposed laws to him which, if it won the contest, he would file as a bill. Mine, allowing cars to cross double-yellows up to 3 feet if there was sufficient visibility when passing "non-vehicular road users" (cyclists and pedestrians), lost out to a "mandatory running of windshield wipers" bill (which passed). A similar provision was added here, at least for cyclists:

(applying to double yellow lines)
(2) As provided in Section 21460.5. (c) (1) Either of the markings as specified in subdivision (a) or (b) does not prohibit a driver to whom any of the following applies from crossing the marking (A) The driver is on a substandard width lane, passing a person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab in the same direction, and it is safe to do so.

So the 3-foot passing bill is now too weak: the penalty would too small and the 15 mph exception is too broad. If we're going 35 mph, it would okay to have a car pull next to me @ 0 mph delta and pull within 1 foot? Silly. But I'm glad to see the proposed rule allowing cars to cross the double yellow when passing cyclists. I (when I drive) and 98% of drivers do that already.

The whole speed differential thing really should go, though. I'd be willing to support it if it said the car was going no faster than 15 mph, period, no differential, to handle the turbulent conditions near intersections, but even then something a bit slower would be better.

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