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After accepting the committee’s suggested amendments, the Assembly Transportation Committee reportedly passed AB-122, which would allow bicyclists 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.
Written by Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), the bill’s purpose is to clarify behavioral expectations and codify common sense practice. The amendments included the bill coming into effect until 2028 and a requirement for the California Highway Patrol to conduct a study on its safety effects.
Boerner Horvath said that the bill would make intersections safer for everyone. “While this might seem counterintuitive, yielding is already the law,” she said, noting that it is widely understood how yielding works. “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.”
According to former Davis Police Chief Phil Coleman, treating a stop as a yield is already common practice among bike riders, 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.
Dave Snyder of CalBike pointed out that bicyclists generally prefer to ride on quieter streets, but those tend to have frequent stop signs that require significant energy to get going again after a full stop. He noted that using “reasonable judgement” to slow down and then continue through if there is no oncoming or crossing traffic helps to maintain momentum.
The Assembly member pointed out, the state of Delaware passed a similar law in 2017, and reportedly saw a 23% reduction in crashes in the first 30 months after passing the law. There are now five states that have some version of this law in place, and “no state has discovered anything other than improvements” after passing similar legislation, according to her.
Moreover, CalBike pointed out in the bill’s analysis that “penalizing this safe bicycling practice with unnecessary enforcement at stop signs is counterproductive to the larger goal of increasing bicycling, and discourages people bicycling from using side streets.”
There is, of course, opposition, which claims that the bill was not quite the same as the last time this bill was attempted in California. The California Association of Highway Patrolmen officially opposes it, though didn’t testify against it in this committee.
The bill, however, largely has support from a wide range of organizations, including bike advocacy organizations, cities, climate and environmental groups, and organizations working to achieve sustainable transportation systems in the state. Also, Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and committee member Buffy Wicks (D-Berkeley) both asked to be added as co-authors.
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.