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Governor Newsom Vetoes A.B. 122

By Michael Stephenson

I recently wrote about A.B. 122 – a proposed bill which had passed the California assembly and California Senate – would have legalized the so-called California roll or California stop. Unfortunately, Governor Newsom vetoed this bill last week, and thus it will not become law in California (at least for now).

In his message to Members of the California State Assembly regarding his veto, Governor Newsom stated: “I fully support safe and equitable access to the state’s transportation network for bicyclists.” His reason for not signing the bill into law was concern that the bill would decrease safety for bicyclists. He makes particular note of young bicycle riders, who may not be able to accurately judge when it is safe to treat a stop sign as a yield sign.

While I appreciate Governor Newsom’s concern for bicycle safety, I still believe that his decision in this instance is misguided.  Rather than relying on data from other states that have instituted similar laws, he instead relied on data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Reporting System (SWITRS). It may at first seem reasonable to rely on data from California as opposed to other states, but I believe that in fact this approach led to an incorrect assessment of the safety of stop-as-yield laws for cyclists.

As I discussed previously, according to data from the Delaware State Police, which recently enacted a law similar to AB 122, crashes involving cyclists at stop sign intersections fell 23% when comparing the 30 months prior and after the implementation of the law.  All other crashes involving cyclists fell only 8% in the same time period, indicating that the change in the stop sign law was responsible for the large decline in cyclist crashes at stop intersections. While this was a different state, the study looked very precisely at the safety implications of the change from cyclists treating stop signs as stops, to cyclists treating stop signs as yields.

The data that Governor Newsom relied on (SWITRS), on the other hand, does not have such well-tailored data — and in fact, there are numerous problems with relying on this data. SWITRS compiles data on crashes information from Traffic Collision Reports statewide. It thus relies on police officer conclusions regarding how a crash occurred and who was at fault. In my work as a bicycle accident lawyer, I see first-hand how often officers incorrectly fault cyclists for accidents that were in fact caused by the driver of a car.  (My colleagues and I recently wrote an article about this for Plaintiff magazine.) Therefore, relying on SWITRS data does not truly give an accurate picture of the causes of bicycle accidents.