New bills aim to keep California bicyclists safer

If new legislation makes its way through the California state legislature, bicyclists in the state could get some much-needed assistance in terms of what the rules of the road actually mean for cyclists.

Cyclists in California already have it rough enough. A study issued in 2014 by the Governors Highway Safety Association that studied bicycling fatalities between 2010 and 2012 determined that California and Florida are the first and second deadliest states for cyclists.

Nationally, cyclist deaths jumped 16 percent in just two years' time, while other motor vehicle fatality rates rose only 1 percent in that same period -- but not all cyclists have it equally tough when it comes to facing the dangers of the road. Just 6 states (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Texas) account for 54 percent of all cycling fatalities in the 2-year study.

The report noted that cyclists are safest in areas where there are designated paths just for bikes, but that those are rarely feasible -- which means that cyclists and motor vehicle drivers need to compromise. Laws that clarify the operating rules for both bikes and other vehicles help make everyone's ride a little safer.

Assembly Bill 694 would change the language of the law to essentially treat bicycles as slow-moving vehicles. It would require cyclists in lanes wide enough to safely accommodate both the bike and a car to ride far enough to the right for the faster vehicle to pass but clarifies that they can legally take the lane when turning right or where there's not enough space for both vehicles.

Assembly Bill 1103 would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, unless safety considerations dictate otherwise, and require cyclists to signal an intention to turn.

Even small improvements can go a long way toward helping cyclists who are struggling to fit in on roads designed without them in mind and under rules that aren't practical. Many cyclists are killed in accidents with cars because the laws don't make it clear enough when cyclists have the right of way or right to take a lane.

If someone you love is killed in an accident with a motor vehicle while riding a bike, consider speaking with an attorney about a wrongful death claim.

Source: Streetsblog CAL, "New Bike Legislation that Works for Bicycle Riders," Melanie Curry, Feb. 21, 2017

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