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The California Assembly reportedly passed AB 122, which would make it legal for bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. When approaching a stop sign, a cyclist would be required to yield the right of way to any vehicle already in the intersection, but not have to come to a complete stop if no other traffic were present.
A.B. 122 easily passed the Assembly Transportation Committee as well as the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it was passed by the entire Assembly recently by a vote of 53 to 11. More than 75 organizations across the state signed a letter in support of the bill.
Stop signs were invented to make sure car drivers don’t pass carelessly through intersections, but the same rules were applied to bikes even though they pose much less risk to themselves and others. Plus, it takes longer for a person on a bike to clear an intersection if they come to a complete stop. Other states have already made similar changes to their laws, and have found that bike crashes have decreased significantly.
Written by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), she has explained in the past: “A.B. 122 uses this common understanding: if it’s safe to do so, a bicyclist [could] continue without making a complete stop. Studies show bikes already do this; this bill is needed to make it clear what is the accepted and expected behavior.”
The only official opposition has been from the California Highway Patrolmen’s Association, a lobby group for law enforcement, which wrote to the bill’s author, reportedly saying that “there is a lot going on at intersections and we feel that allowing bicyclists to simply yield rather than stop will create a public safety risk.”
However, according to Streetsblog, the data doesn’t back up that assertion. CalBike, the bill’s sponsor, reported that none of the states who have implemented the “safety stop” law – these being Idaho, Delaware, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Arkansas, Utah, and North Dakota – have reported any safety problems with the new rule, and that “a recent study in Delaware found that collisions involving bicycles at intersections decreased by 23% since the safety stop became legal.”
According to former Davis Police Chief Phil Coleman, treating a stop as a yield is already common practice among bike riders in California, and is one that is “embraced by the vast majority of uniformed police officers” who make discretionary decisions about whether to enforce what is currently an infraction. He testified in support of the bill at the Assembly Transportation Committee.
The next stop for AB 122 is the California Senate, where it will most likely be assigned to the Transportation Committee.
California’s bicycle accident statistics are alarming and demonstrate the dangerous reality that many bicyclists face. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 California was the second state with the most pedalcyclist deaths in the country. And in 2017, the city of Los Angeles experienced a total of 1,918 bicycle accidents that resulted in 17 fatalities, according to the California Highway Patrol’s Annual Report.