As we rang in the new year, some new and welcome vehicle code changes for biking and walking also took effect. These included removing bike registration requirements statewide, requiring that drivers change lanes to pass bike riders, extending ebike access on multi-use trails, decriminalizing safe pedestrian crossing behavior, and more. Here are the details:
Safe Passing Rule Enacted
On any street with multiple lanes in one direction, the law now requires drivers to completely change lanes before passing a bike rider proceeding in the same direction. On single lane streets the existing 3-foot minimum passing distance rule still applies.
“Sharing the road” with drivers on a wide, multiple-lane street can still be a scary proposition for many people though, so whenever possible we will continue pushing for separate and safe, dedicated bikeways.
(Photo: Street sign reading “Bicycles may use full lane, change lanes to pass”)
Bike Registration Requirements Eliminated
Previously, California law allowed local jurisdictions to require people to register their bikes, though many cities didn’t have a requirement. The law now removes all bike registration requirements but still allows cities to offer registrations optionally.
We advocated successfully for Oakland to drop their bike registration requirement in 2016, due to its ineffectiveness and biased enforcement, and we are glad to see this change now extend statewide. Optional bike registrations are still available from free, online resources like Bike Index, which do help individuals increase their chance of recovering a lost or stolen bike. More information about Bike Index and an easy registration webform is available at BikeEastBay.org/register.
More Trails Access for E-Bikes
Class 3 (28 mph top speed) e-bikes were previously banned from all multi-use paths, while local jurisdictions could choose to also ban Class 1 and 2 (20 mph top speed) e-bikes. The new law still allows local jurisdictions to prohibit any class of e-bike from paths, but by default they will be allowed if no local ordinance is adopted. No list of rules for each East Bay city is available yet, so make sure to check with your local jurisdictions to know what is allowed.
Information about e-bike access on East Bay Regional Parks trails, specifically, is available here.
Safe Pedestrian Crossings Legalized
Previously, state law made it illegal to cross a roadway mid-block between two intersections with traffic signals, or in a crosswalk against a “don’t walk” light, even with no vehicles around. A new law called the “Freedom to Walk Act” amends this section of the vehicle code to state that a police officer cannot stop and ticket a pedestrian for violating this traffic law unless their behavior creates an immediate collision danger.
There is still a duty of care for a pedestrian to not put themselves or others in danger, but otherwise safe crossing behavior is no longer a ticketable offense.
These state law changes were championed by State Assemblymembers Laura Friedman and Phil Ting, and were made possible via advocacy from the California Bicycle Coalition.
More info about other California and Bay Area biking and walking laws is available at: BikeEastBay.org/EducationResources