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As San Francisco Debates Idaho Stop, Gov. Brown Gives All Cyclists a Break

Regardless of how San Francisco's proposed Bike Yield Law fares, all California cyclists who are ticketed for not stopping at stop signs may have the option to pay a reduced fine if they opt to attend bike school thanks to a new law signed Sept. 21.
September 28, 2015, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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[Updated 09/29/2015] "Assemblymember Richard Bloom from Santa Monica introduced bill A.B. 902 back in February to address the discrepancy between options for motorists and bicyclists when dealing with an identical ticket," writes Curbed LA, following original reporting by Melanie Curry of Streetsblog LA. The bill was sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and supported by the California Police Chiefs Association.

"When a bicyclist is ticketed for a moving violation in California, they by default receive the same monetary fine as when driving a motor vehicle. This means that with court fees added a stop sign violation can cost around $200, and running a red light around $400," said Bloom.

Motorists can get the fine substantially reduced if they opt to attend traffic school (called a 'diversion program'), though they pay the courts an administrative fee and the school a fee as well, explains Traffic School To Go. The only cyclists who get a break are minors according to current legislation, as they can attend a diversion program.

A.B. 902 "(r)emoves the age limitation on the use of locally adopted diversion programs for Vehicle Code infractions not involving a motor vehicle, allowing such programs to be offered to adults," notes the summary in the last legislative analysis for the bill. 

The importance of the bike school option can not be overstated. As the analysis explains, these diversion programs can save lives.

A recent report [also posted here and here] from the Governor's Highway Safety Association on bicycle safety found that bicyclist fatalities increased 16% nationwide between 2010 and 2012. California had the highest number of fatalities of any state during that time period at 338.

Among other recommendations for reducing bicyclist/motor vehicle collisions and the resulting injuries and fatalities, the report recommends "education of bicyclists and motorists about lawful and otherwise appropriate behavior regarding motorist/bicycle interactions." Diversion programs would provide an opportunity for this type of education.

However, there's one more step required in order for the bill to be implemented on a local basis. "AB 902 goes into effect on January 1, 2016, and it’s up to us and our local partners, advocacy groups and you to make sure that our local police departments adopt diversion programs in our city," writes Cynthia Rose for Santa Monica Spoke.

Meanwhile, here's a progress report from San Francisco on "legalizing the 'Idaho Stop,' which, legal in a few places around the country, allows bikers to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs," as noted here last month, and here in Velo News in May. It's origins are described in BicycleLaw.com in 2009.

"At least six of the 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors back a proposed ordinance that would, in effect, allow bicyclists in the city to roll through stop signs as long as they take care to “safely yield” to pedestrians and other traffic," writes Ted Goldberg for KQED News. The ordinance appears on page 2 of 5 [PDF]:

150943 [Administrative Code - Bicycle Yield Enforcement Policy] Sponsors: Avalos; Breed, Campos, Kim, Mar and Wiener Ordinance amending the Administrative Code to add Chapter 110 to establish the “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy” to promote safety, tolerance, and harmony among all users of City Streets; make arrests and citations of bicyclists for failure to stop at a stop sign the lowest traffic enforcement priority, provided that the bicyclist first slows to a safe speed and yields the right-of-way to any other vehicle or pedestrian in the intersection; require quarterly reports from the Police Department on statistics related to traffic enforcement, injuries, and fatalities; and require notification of state officials of this Ordinance. ASSIGNED UNDER 30 DAY RULE to Rules Committee.

Unlike with AB 902, the police are not supportive. 

“Stop signs are pretty simple. They say stop,” Police Chief Greg Suhr said during a visit to the University of San Francisco. “They don’t say yield, they don’t say slow down.”

No word on where Mayor Ed Lee is on the ordinance. Should he veto it, *eight votes will be needed to override.

*This post was updated to reflect the correct number of votes necessary to override a veto.

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