Monday, 22 April 2013

California legislature considers transit privacy and rules for motorists passing bicycles

I can’t make it to Sacramento today, but the Committee on Transportation of the California Assembly will be holding a hearing on two bills of interest:

Assembly Bill 179 (status) would extend the privacy protections provided by current California law for records related to RFID vehicle toll payment systems (e.g. Fastrak in the San Francisco Bay area) to RFID transit fare payment systems (e.g. Clipper Card in the SF. Bay area and TAP in Los Angeles). It should be obvious that records of the movements of transit passengers’ bodies deserve at least as much privacy protection as records of the movements of motor vehicles. Neither the current nor the amended law would go far enough, as there’s still no restriction on unauthorized private “reading” of RFID tags. But this is a no-brainer step in the right direction, and would set an important precedent in an area — privacy law — where California often leads the nation.

Assembly Bill 1371 (status) is a revised version of last year’s SB1464, which would have required motorists passing bicyclists to allow at least three feet of clearance (good) but would also have allowed motorists to cross double yellow lines to try to pass bicyclists in what are otherwise no-passing zones (bad).

SB1464 was approved by the legislature, but vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown on the basis of objections to the legalization of trying to pass bicyclists in no-passing zones which I raised in letters to the Governor and the legislature and in testimony at hearings before the Assembly Transportation Committee.

I take credit for the fact that this year’s AB 1371, while it would still legalize crossing double yellow lines to try to pass bicyclists in no-passing zones, would provide that motorists who do so assume all liability for any collision that occurs:

If a driver of a motor vehicle drives to the left of the [double yellow lines] to pass a person operating a bicycle and is involved in a collision, the driver of the motor vehicle that drove to the left of the markings is solely liable for any damages suffered by any person involved in the collision, regardless of the conditions of the roadway.

As written, that would still leave motorists wiggle room to claim that they aren’t “involved in” or liable for crashes that they cause but which don’t constitute “collisions” or in which the motor vehicle causing the crash doesn’t actually collide with other vehicles. But it’s still a major improvement in what was a gravely flawed, although well meaning, initiative.

[Update, 25 April 2013: I wasn’t able to attend the committee markup session. But for reasons I don’t know, AB 1371 was amended again to remove the motorist-liability provisions, recreating the problems I (and the Governor when he vetoed it) objected to in last year’s bill. If you’re a Californian, tell your state legislators to reinstate the motorist-liability provisions that were included in the previous version of AB 1371.]

[Further update: AB 1371 was amended again to entirely remove the provisions to which I (and Governor Brown) had objected which would have allowed crossing double yellow lines, and in that form was eventually approved by the legislature and the governor. As enacted into law (Chapter 331, California Statutes of 2013), it makes no changes to current California law which prohibits crossing double yellow lines to pass, and additionally provides that, “If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with [the new provision requiring three feet of clearance when passing a bicycle] due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.”]

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 22 April 2013, 12:02 (12:02 PM)

Don't forget San Diego's Compass Card!

Posted by: Justin Nelson, 23 April 2013, 15:23 ( 3:23 PM)
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