Jerry Brown: No Friend to Vulnerable Road Users

Governor Jerry Brown has again proven his administration to be no friend to bike riders. He’s just vetoed four bills that would have increased accountability for those who perpetrate hits-and-run. And he’s stricken a bill that would provide added protection to “vulnerable road users” like bicycle riders (Mark Levine’s A.B. 2398). Recall that not long ago, Brown vetoed safe passing bills not once but twice (before signing the third – a victory we can only chalk up to the California Bicycle Coalition’s persistence). Is this a governor who really cares about road safety?

Here’s the roundup of the recent vetoed bills as helpfully summarized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) in their recent email blast. Four would have upped accountability for hits-and-run:

  • Assembly Bill 2337, from Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona), which would have increased the automatic driver’s license suspension for a hit-and-run conviction from one to two years.
  • A.B. 1532, from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), which would have required an automatic six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run collision in which a person was hit, whether that person was injured or not, and elevated the penalty to be on par with that of drunk driving.
  • A.B. 47, again from Assemblymember Gatto, which would have created a new “Yellow Alert” system to help the CHP quickly apprehend hit-and-run crime perpetrators, similar to the existing Amber Alert that disseminates information about child abductions quickly throughout California.
  • A.B. 2673, from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), which would have removed the possibility of a civil compromise in the case of a hit and run.

The hazards of hit-and-run we’re just beginning to appreciate, in part to efforts by hit-and-run victims like rider Damian Kevitt, who was left to die and who lost a limb to a criminally-negligent driver. To raise awareness of the crime, he’s ramped up his Finish the Ride campaign. But evidently Brown doesn’t agree that hit-and-run is a crime worthy of significant penalties.

Vulnerable road users also didn’t fare well at the stroke of Brown’s veto pen:

  • A.B. 2398  (Mark Levine, D-San Rafael), would increase fines and the point penalties for injuring “Vulnerable Road Users” (those on bike and on foot).

And recognizing the clear safety hazards presented by distracted drivers, a new distracted driving law would have upped penalties:

  • A.B. 1646 (Assemblymember Jim Frazier, D-Oakley), would increased fines and add a point to a driver’s record for using a hand-operated phone or for texting while driving. That bill was also vetoed by Brown.
Boulder buffered lane example

Boulder’s cycle track shows how just a couple of feet of buffer can make a bike lane feel better to use.

Read more in Streetsblog’s recap. About the only good that Brown did was to sign a protected bike lane bill that directs state officials to create standards for this essential facility. Imagine Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills with a bike lane that actually buffers passing traffic!

While Brown’s administration dithers, riders fall victim every day to distracted drivers and  criminally-negligent hit-and-run perpetrators. Until such legislation comes to pass in California, all we can do is to support the organizations that support us. Join the California Bicycle Coalition to ensure we’ve got a voice in Sacramento; re-up your membership to the LACBC; and take pen to paper to let these legislators know that we support their efforts.