California legislators to look at new bicycle laws

Two proposed pieces of legislation could reshape the way bicyclists and motorists in California share the road.

It is no secret that cyclists sharing the road with motorists are at risk of serious injury. Drivers who are distracted, drunk or otherwise negligent have struck and hurt – and even killed – too many people in California. In fact, in Santa Ana alone, 159 bicyclists suffered a significant or fatal injury in 2014, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

These shocking numbers are part of the reason state legislators are seeking new ways to keep cyclists safe. Here is a look at proposed laws that seek to improve how motorists and cyclists can safely share the road:

Rolling through stop signs

Under state law, cyclists are typically expected to follow the same traffic rules that motor vehicles do. However, The Los Angeles Times reports that a proposed bill would enable people on bicycles to roll through stop signs, essentially treating them as a yield sign instead.

The news report states that the change is supported by data that indicates that when a cyclist’s momentum slows, he or she inevitably spends more time at an intersection. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of getting into an accident with an oncoming vehicle. Idaho has a similar law, and has seen a decrease in cyclist injuries since its passing.

Defining “as close to the right”

Existing law mandates that cyclists are supposed to ride “as close as practicable” to the right side of the road. A proposed piece of legislation would clarify what exactly that means to demand that cyclists ride in a bicycle lane or in the right-hand lane of a road without a bicycle lane.

The current and proposed laws both make exceptions for certain circumstances, such as when a cyclist is going to make a left-hand turn or overtaking a fellow cyclist or a vehicle. The proposed law specifically states that a cyclist sharing a lane with a motorist must ride as far to the right as possible so traffic moving faster is able to pass.

Criticism and advice

While the proposed law that clarifies existing law has not met much criticism yet, there has been some backlash against the stop sign piece. The Los Angeles Times reports that some people think it could increase injuries as motorists assume cyclists will stop instead of yielding.

No matter what changes take place, it is prudent for both drivers and cyclists to be aware of their surroundings and avoid distraction. Obeying traffic laws is one of the simplest ways to prevent a tragic accident from occurring.

When someone does suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, California law enables the victim to hold the other party responsible for the damages. Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney.