As a cyclist, it is easy to enjoy a day out on the road. What’s not to love about the time outdoors, the exercise, and fresh air? However, the sport does come with some responsibilities. If you want to make sure that your time on the bike stays enjoyable and safe for you and those around you, it’s important to know the rules of the road. With new laws continuously being proposed or going into effect, it can be tough to stay current.
We’re here to help with what you need to know so far for 2017.
Jan. 1 Headphone Law Went Into Effect
As a cyclist, you might enjoy listening to some music on your headphones as you ride. If not, you have probably seen at least a few people that ride with some type of music device. For many riders, they don’t see the harm, but legislators in California have enacted a new rule that restricts the use of headphones and earbuds while riding a bike.
Under the new law, which went into effect on January 1, cyclists are no longer allowed to have an earbud in both ears when riding. Cyclists are still allowed to ride with an earbud in one ear as long as the other ear is free to hear noise in the surrounding environment. It should also be mentioned that this restriction applies to motorists as well.
This law restricting the use of headphones and personal music players is not entirely new. The restrictions that came into effect at the beginning of the year are an adjustment to an existing law. Previously, riders were allowed to wear earbuds in both ears, but were not allowed to wear headphones that cover the entire ear.
The idea behind this new law is to improve the safety of cyclists and those who they share space with. To proponents of the new restrictions, having one earbud in still allows the rider to listen to music, but they have the other ear available to hear noise that may be coming from traffic or pedestrians. It is unclear as to how strict enforcement is going to be, but getting caught comes with a fine of $178, which many claim to be excessive.
The cycling community in California is split on how they feel about this new restriction. Many believe that it is a good safety measure that will help to prevent accidents, but there are some that are not happy. Opponents are claiming that it is an unnecessary intrusion on the rights of cyclists, and that as a cyclist; it should be their choice as to whether they want to take the risk.
Regardless of how you feel about it, it is now officially a law, and is something that should be followed to avoid any fines.
The new headphone law isn’t the only legislation in the works. Here are some other laws recently proposed that will impact California cyclists.
Other Laws Recently Proposed:
Clarification on ‘Stay to Right’
A new law proposed to the California legislature would clarify the somewhat vague rules about keeping to the right when riding a bike. The new language is intended to more precisely outline where a cyclist is to ride when they are sharing the road with motor vehicles. It also lays out a few exceptions to the rule.
The Idaho Stop
Another law proposed to the California State Legislature, is AB 1103. With this bill, cyclists will be allowed to engage in a practice popularly known as the “Idaho Stop” which is when cyclists treat stop signs as a yield. If passed, cyclists will no longer have to stop at stop signs. Instead, they will have to slow down to a reasonable speed and yield the right of way before proceeding.
Expanding the Bike Share Program
Right now, the California Department of General Services already operates a bike share program for state employees that work in Sacramento. It has been proposed to the legislature that this program be extended to cover all state employees throughout the entire state.
Traffic Light Actuators
Another proposed bill would change the standard for traffic light actuation. With actuated lights, the signal is managed by detecting traffic. With the proposed law, it will be required that the lights can detect smaller vehicles like motorcycles and bikes.
Exemption of Bicycle Plans from Environmental Review
With AB 417, bicycle plans were exempted from the environmental review included in the California Environmental Quality Act. This exemption is set to expire at the beginning of the year. Under AB 1218 from Assemblyman Obernolte, the exemption will be extended indefinitely.
New Section on Distracted Driving Safety
California just recently passed one of the strictest distracted driving laws in the country, and a recently proposed law would be another step to support it. Under this law, changes would be made to the State of California driver’s handbook. With the change, a new section that covers the dangers of distracted driving would be included.
Complete Streets Policy Becomes State Law
A new bill from Senator Scott Weiner would make the Complete Streets policy a state law. The policy is already in effect through much of California, but this would make it law and change the way that roads and transportation facilities are designed and maintained.
A proposed law has to go through several steps before it can be approved and go into effect. Only time will tell which of these proposed laws will actually end up on the books, but it is important to know about the changes that may be on the horizon. Most importantly, don’t forget that the law concerning earbuds is already in effect.
If you have been in a cycling accident of any type, it is important that you know your rights. If you have any questions or would like to have your case evaluated by a professional that specializes in representing injured cyclists, contact Sariol Legal Cycling at 1-866-800-9399 or www.sariolcycling.com.