With the beginning of every new year comes a number of laws and bills. On January 1, 2024, a new bill went into effect that alters the rules of the road for bicyclists in a number of ways. This new bill, created by Assembly member Laura Friedman, is known as Assembly Bill No. 1909 (AB 1909). Also known as the OmniBike Bill, the bill was put in place in an effort to protect bicyclists and reduce the number of bicycle-related accidents and injuries.
Expansion of the 3-Foot Rule
The previous 3-foot rule that went into effect in California in 2013 required automobile drivers to give bike riders at least a three feet of clearance when passing. However, the previous law was difficult to enforce as it is difficult to gauge what three feet is with the naked eye. Therefore, the expansion of this rule, as laid out in AB 1909, requires drivers to move over a lane before passing a bicyclist. Essentially, automobile drivers must treat passing a bicyclist the same as passing any other vehicle. This will provide a greater margin between bicyclists and vehicles which, in turn, will hopefully reduce opportunity for accidents.
E-bikes Allowed on Bikeways
Another change included in AB 1909, is that e-bikes are now allowed to be used on bikeways and bike paths. However, local authorities and the Department of Parks and Recreation are allowed to prohibit the use of e-bikes on certain community trails, such as hiking and equestrian trials, as they see fit.
Intersections and Crosswalks
An additional provision of AB 1909 is that bicyclists are now able to cross streets when the pedestrian “WALK” or walking symbol is on. This is in opposition to the previous law that only allowed bicyclists to legally cross the street when there was a green light. Again, this law is enforced to help protect the safety of bicyclists.
Bicycle Licensing Ordinances
Prior to the passing of AB 1909, local authorities were able to enforce bicycle licensing ordinances that prohibited those without a license from operating a bicycle in a public place. Although these ordinances and regulations were not heavily enforced, some cities and counties did use them as a way of barring certain individuals or communities from riding, resulting in bias and discrimination issues. However, AB 1909 has removed the ability for a jurisdiction to require licensing in their local area.
The Dangers of Bicycle Accidents
Riding a bicycle, especially on congested roads, is undoubtedly dangerous. In 2021 alone, there were 1,230 bicyclist deaths according to the National Safety Council. If you are involved in a bicycle accident, it is important to speak with a Van Nuys bicycle accident attorney about the legal options you may pursue. Fortunately, the new provisions that have been put into place because of AB 1909 should help to protect bicyclists from getting involved in a serious accident.