AB 345 Gives Us A Voice

From the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC) comes a heads-up about an AB 345 that for the first time would open the Caltrans California Traffic Devices Committee membership to cyclists and other road users. Not surprisingly, the committee has been dominated by auto interests; he CBC reports that the only road users currently represented are the auto clubs of California and Southern California.

That might explain why cyclists in California are so bereft of innovations rolled out in other states. Introduced by first-term Assembly member Toni Atkins ( Democrat, 76th district representing San Diego), the legislation not only specifies that “non-motorized user groups” are to be included on the committee, it explicitly identifies bicyclists as road users for the purposes of the new law.

This legislation is a companion piece of sorts to Complete Streets policy (description, guidelines PDF, fact sheet PDF, and summary from the CBC) already adopted by the state. The body that sets standards for devices, road signs and other road design issues would, under this legislation, represent the interests of all road users (er, like roads should). Evidently we need legislation to ensure that all voices are heard.

The significance of this bill is that it mandates a seat at the table for user communities not previously represented. You might know how important is the Caltrans Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) in establishing statewide standards for design, signage, striping, etc., but you may not have known that the advisory committee behind it heretofore included no representation from the cycling community.

The backstory is that the committee was inaugurated in 1933 in agreement between the State and the two existing automobile clubs, which in the early days assumed responsibility for signing highways. Indeed engineers from these clubs still sit on the committee, which has since been broadened over the years to include seemingly every road-affiliated interest EXCEPT cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motor users. (Today the clubs function only in an advisory capacity.) For more info on the evolution of the committee, see the analysis of the legislation or the Caltrans history.

How a bill becomes a lawWe have to keep our eyes on this bill! It next comes before the Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee on June 28th, according to Atkin’s office.

The bill has already cleared the Assembly (60-16) after having passed out of the Assembly committees for Transportation (10-4 in favor) and Appropriations (12-5). In Sacramento that counts as near-unanimity. Track it here!

Between SB 910 (three-foot passing) and now AB 345, we’re on a roll.

Got an idea for Sacramento? Use the Assembly’ ‘Kid’s Stuff’ portal to craft your own legislation! (For a legislative process refresher, consult the official chart at right, or download the detailed process flowchart attached below.)