As I suspected newly amended AB 208 that CABO helped modify is subject to being mischaracterized as a change adding a restriction detrimental to people bicycling when it isn’t.
Here’s what a recent LA Times article stated, “The Senate voted Thursday to approve a bill requiring bicyclists on two-lane highways to pull over and let vehicles pass if five or more vehicles are backed up behind them. Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) introduced AB 208.”
Here’s the article,
You may be called upon to explain this, so …. Here’s more than you may want to know about what happened with this bill and why.
CABO successfully influenced changes to the originally proposed legislation, AB 208 (amendment to vehicle lane use law), that would have been to detrimental to bicyclists in California. Although the bill now does not significantly change the existing vehicle code sections, due to CABO’s effort it continues to protect bicyclist’s right to the road while achieving the bill’s author, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow’s objectives.
Here’s the bill, AB 208, as of July 9. It is still to be reheard in the Assembly after passing the Senate as modified.
Section 21656 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:
On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, any vehicle proceeding upon the highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed.
The following explanation is from the Legislative Analysts introduction about the bill –
The amended Bill requires: on a 2-lane highway where passing is unsafe due to specified reasons, any vehicle proceeding upon the highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time, behind which 5 or more vehicles are formed in line, to turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists.
The back-story – we intervened to help Assemblymember Bigelow respond to his constituents complaints about being delayed behind bicyclists – narrow lanes, no shoulder, double-yellow centerline they feel that they cannot cross, 3′ minimum passing law – that had them upset. According to Bigelow’s staff, as originally introduced “AB 208 is current just a spot bill but we intend to use it to strengthen the relationship between bikers and cars.” But, their bill as initially introduced as a modification of the 3′ minimum passing law, would have required any bicyclists to pull off out of the way on multi-lane roadways, an expansion of the CVC 21656 requirement that is limited to two-lane roads (roads with one lane in each direction).
Here’s an explanation provided by CABO Government Relations Chair, Alan Wachtel about why the original AB 208 was a problem .
“AB 208 largely duplicates existing §21656, with the following differences:”
“§21656 applies “where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions.” This is already somewhat subjective for the driver being followed, though it’s clear enough in the most likely case where passing is prohibited by striping or signs. AB 208 replaces it with “If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (d)” [i.e., passing only at a reasonable, prudent, and safe speed when traffic or roadway conditions prevent leaving a three-foot clearance]. How is a bicyclist to know whether a following driver is unable to comply? All that can be observed is whether the driver passes or not.”
“§21656 applies “On a two-lane highway.” AB 208 has no such limitation.”
“§21656 applies to “a slow-moving vehicle,” defined as “one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.” AB 208 applies to any “operator of a bicycle.”
“In §21656, if a turnout is designated, it must be by “signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway.” AB 208 does not specify how the turnout must be designated. Existing law does, however, already contain the highly subjective “wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists.”
“These differences create the potential for discrimination against bicycle transportation on multilane urban streets. Interestingly, however, AB 208 contains a get-out-of-jail-free card: “Section 40000.1 does not apply to a violation of this subdivision.” That section reads: “Except as otherwise provided in this article, it is unlawful and constitutes an infraction for any person to violate, or fail to comply with any provision of this code . . . ” So it wouldn’t be a violation to fail to comply! I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
“But of course this is all unnecessary, because §21656 already covers the five-in-a-row situation. Furthermore, the exceptions in §21202 for conditions “that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge” are expressly “subject to the provisions of Section 21656.” So there should be no doubt that that section applies to bicyclists.”
“So really nothing at all needs to be done, but the author, Frank Bigelow of Placerville, is trying to respond to the wishes of his constituents. I don’t see that it would do any harm to instead expand §21656 by adding “or bicycle” to the two occurrences of “slow-moving vehicle” (except to the extent that it always muddies the waters to call out bicycles explicitly in some places but not others).”
CABO opposed AB 208 as introduced. A modification to the bill was then made that instead made unacceptable changes to 21656, among which would have required bicyclists to pull off of the “highway” rather than the “roadway” – a significant difference that we opposed. In case you weren’t aware, Roadway is technically the traveled way but Highway refers to the full right of way including any space even beyond a sidewalk, shoulder, etc.
We got “highway” changed back to “roadway” and we (thanks to Serge Issakov) proposed better wording for CVC 21656 that was accepted to describe a slow moving vehicle. The change – ” any vehicle proceeding upon the highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time, …”
The result; no harm to bicyclists since we already were subject to the provisions of CVC 21656 – see CVC 21200. The Assemblymember can show his constituents that he did something, changing CVC 21656. And, CABO may, with increased attention to the issues, be better able to get changes as we plan to do next year, as Alan W. stated, “The long-term solution is to modify the law regarding crossing double yellow lines. I’d bet Bigelow’s constituents would like that, too. But it would require careful negotiation with CHP and Caltrans to avoid a veto, and it wouldn’t be a quick win for Bigelow.”
Unfortunately there is still plenty of room for misunderstanding and mis-behavior for how people bicycling and motoring are to share limited spaces in various circumstances – When is a “lane too narrow to share”? What is the “normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time” when most of the traffic at that time is a group of people bicycling? What is “sufficient area for a safe turnout”? etc.
CABO recommends that courtesy prevails; that people wishing to travel faster than others be patient and only pass safely, and that people traveling slower – including bicyclists – should courteously allow faster traffic to get by when they can do so safely without undue delay.
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