Gavin Newsom has missed the chance to turn California into the most pedestrian- and bike-friendly state in the US (for reference, the League of American Bicyclists placed it fourth in its most recent ranking), as well as the opportunity to cast a vote for common sense. The Golden State’s governor has instead used precious political capital to veto two bills: one would have given cyclists gentler rules at stop signs (the so-called “Idaho stop”) and another would have repealed laws against jaywalking.
Newsom says that his decision was informed by concerns that the new laws would actually endanger pedestrian lives – but I’m not convinced that this adds up. The Idaho stop allows cyclists to continue at a stop sign if there is no oncoming traffic and move around city streets more easily. It also improves safety: Delaware saw a 23 per cent decrease in bicycle collisions at stop-sign intersections after permitting the move in 2017. Meanwhile, repealing jaywalking rules would allow people to use their own judgement to cross a street – rather than, if they choose to follow existing rules, forcing them to walk the length of a block to get to a pedestrian crossing and still have to wait for a light to turn green to permit them to cross.
Not only does Newsom’s argument not hold but it also continues to make the car a more attractive transport option. And while the governor has said that he will increase spending on infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, he’s missed a chance here to support it with these behaviour-changing laws. It’s a frustration best vocalised by state assembly member Tasha Boerner Horvath, who authored the bill and explained in a statement that the nixed regulations would have “improved bicycle safety and started saving lives today using California’s existing bike network”. So where to next? Well, Boerner Horvath says that she’ll remain committed to the fight, which means that we could still see the bill re-emerge at a later date. Here’s hoping that Newsom doesn’t run it down again.