Bill Would Create a California Bicycle Safety Handbook

One of the bills introduced this year by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath is A.B. 1188, which would call on the California State Transportation Agency to develop and publish a bicycle safety handbook. The handbook would address, “among other things, existing laws regulating bicycles and e-bikes, safety equipment, and sharing roads and bikeways with other users.”

Advocates have long sought to have the DMV create and distribute a handbook on par with the Driver’s Handbook that the department distributes to drivers and those studying for the driver’s license test. The DMV provides other subject-specific handbooks, including for seniors and motorcycle riders, but the bicycle information it provides is limited to what’s in the Driver’s Handbook. That includes information for drivers and bike riders about safely navigating in traffic, the definitions of different kinds of bike lanes, and updates on new laws such as last year’s A.B. 1919, which requires drivers to not only give bicycles at least three feet of space when passing them, but to change lanes if they can.

The bill calls for collaboration among the DMV, Caltrans, CHP, and the California Office of Traffic Safety, as well as “other relevant stakeholders, including major bicycling organizations such as the League of American Bicyclists and the American Bicycling Education Association.”

The League of American Bicyclists has already done extensive work on this topic. Not only does the League train and certify bike safety instructors and provide material for them, it has developed several safety publications such as its Smart Cycling manuals. Cycling Savvy, a program of the American Bicycling Education Association, has also developed materials and training for bike rider safety.

In other words, the work to develop such a handbook would not have to be onerous – it’s just a matter of collating information that already exists and including California-specific regulations.

Making the information widely available both online and in DMV offices – in the same way the California Driver’s Handbook is handled – would both be useful for safety and would help send the message that bicycle riders have every bit as much right to use roads as people driving cars do.

Jim Baross, an advocate with the San Diego Bicycle Coalition who has been active on local and statewide bicycle advisory committees for many years, told Streetsblog that the widespread adoption of e-bikes is making this issue more urgent. As more people buy and use e-bikes – especially people for whom bike riding for transportation is new – the need for safety training and material will only become more pressing.

Also important to note is that California laws related to bicycling have been changing, and will likely continue to do so. The three-feet-for-safety law, for example, didn’t exist before ten years ago, and now it has been further enhanced with the lane-change requirement. Bills that would allow bike riders to treat stop signs as yield signs have been defeated in the past few years, but they will keep coming back; in fact, this bill’s author, Boerner Horvath, is running a new version this year: A.B. 73, which includes a sunset clause and new restrictions in response to Governor Newsom’s objections to last year’s bill.

Law changes need to be communicated to all road users, new and experienced, and a Bicycle Handbook at the DMV would be a good place to start.

A.B. 1188 has not yet been set for a hearing, but expect to hear more about this soon.

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