Assemblyman Robert Rivas has introduced a few bills up in Sacramento since he was elected in 2018, and now one related to bike safety is set to become law on Jan. 1. Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1266 on Sept. 4.
Rivas answered some questions about the bill, such as how it is expected to make the roads safer for cyclists and the challenge of bike safety in California’s 30th State Assembly district.
BENITOLINK: What was your thinking behind authoring this bill? Who did you work with on the bill?
RIVAS: Active and alternative modes of transportation are increasingly used by Californians. In particular, walking and biking have many positive health benefits and help reduce traffic and air pollution. But as a state, we have to do more to support these modes of transportation. Promoting these alternative modes of transportation with state and local goal setting policies is great, but we must also ensure our roads are compatible. First and foremost, we must improve safety. Data shows that a large majority of cyclist accidents occur at intersections. That’s why I partnered with the California Bicycle Coalition to introduce AB 1266 to address the problem and make these dangerous intersections safer for all Californians.
You have said that the bill will make roads safer for cyclists, how will it accomplish this?
AB 1266 improves safety allowing cyclists to take safer, well-marked paths through intersections. Specifically, the bill allows cyclists, when indicated, to proceed straight through a turn lane with an imbedded bike lane. This is a data driven best practice, recommended by National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). But it’s not allowed under current California law. AB 1266 changes this, and to ensure consistent, effective implementation, the bill asks the Department of Transportation to develop standards for lane striping and signs to ensure clarity and consistency.
The focus on AB 1266 has been on bike safety, but the bill also deals with traffic control devices and developing standards at the Department of Transportation level for lane-striping, pavement marking and signage in order to implement the amendment. What is the timeline for the state to have these standards ready and implemented?
The timeline and implementation of the bill is within CalTrans’ discretion. The department has their own timeline for how standards and guidelines are developed and rolled out. Unfortunately, I cannot specify a timeline or date for implementation.
How does the bill define traffic control devices, and what will determine whether a traffic control device needs to be installed at a particular intersection?
This bill does not create any new definitions. The definition of traffic control devices is within existing law. The appropriate traffic control devices will be marked accordingly (determined by CalTrans), so all road users understand the design guidance.
VEHICLE CODE – VEH DIVISION 1. WORDS AND PHRASES DEFINED [100 – 681] ( Division 1 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. ) 440. An “official traffic control device” is any sign, signal, marking, or device, consistent with Section 21400, placed or erected by authority of a public body or official having jurisdiction, for the purpose of regulating, warning, or guiding traffic, but does not include islands, curbs, traffic barriers, speed humps, speed bumps, or other roadway design features. (Amended by Stats. 1994, Ch. 1220, Sec. 51. Effective September 30, 1994.)
Can you speak to the issue of cyclist safety in your district? Is it a problem particularly in San Benito County? How does that compare statewide?
I think it is important to encourage the safest guidance for all persons using the road, including cyclists. It is a challenge for the rural areas of California to accommodate and encourage cycling as a mode of transportation due to the long distances to be traveled. Certainly within the district, which is mostly rural, there is much opportunity to improve cyclists’ safety and encourage active modes of transportation. Specifically, Watsonville has been ranked in California as one of the worst cities for cyclist and pedestrian safety, accumulating an alarming amount of injuries compared to other cities in the state. I think it is important to implement and promote laws that encourage safer transportation for all Californians.
What role will you play in working with local jurisdictions in your district to implement the bill?
As the local jurisdictions begin to implement the bill, I will continue to work with constituents and local elected officials to ensure they have all the information they need to make these safety improvements. CalTrans shall develop standards and guidelines the legislation prescribes, while local transportation agencies are responsible for the physical implementation of the design guidance.
Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s important for everyone in San Benito County and all parts of California to have safe, healthy, environmentally friendly transportation options and I’m thrilled AB 1266 was signed into law to take positive steps in this direction.
Assemblyman Robert Rivas, and County Supervisors Peter Hernandez and Jim Gillio will be sharing what they have learned since taking office in 2019 in a Town Hall on Thursday, October 10 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. At the event, hosted by BenitoLink and the Community Foundation for San Benito County, guests will have the opportunity to hear from each speaker about what they have done over the last year, the challenges they’ve faced, and their 2020 plans. Attendees will also be given an opportunity to ask questions. To get your tickets to Town Hall: Report to the County, click HERE.