California Stop could become legal

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The organization first reported the California Legislature has a bill it is considering, SB 986, that would legalize the “California Stop.” For the few that don’t know what that is: the “California Stop” is when drivers looking to make a right turn pull up to the intersection with a red light and instead of stopping they roll through the red light. Sometimes it’s slowly, many times they speed though without looking for traffic.

Right now drivers are required to come to a full stop to check traffic before proceeding into the turn.

BusBesides the traffic accidents waiting to happen between motor vehicles, especially motorcycles which are not as easily seen as cars and trucks, the legalized California Stop is a threat to pedestrians and cyclists who rely on the green light and “Walk” light to get through intersections safely.

If pedestrians and cyclists can’t be reasonably assured the intersection is safe to cross — and with legalized roll through red lights there is no assurance it is safe — they will find it difficult and troubling to walk on California’s walkways or ride bikes in the bike lanes.

Walking or bike riding across busy streets is dicey enough as it is. With anywhere from 4-6 lanes of traffic in one direction, even the best and safest drivers find it difficult to see all pedestrians and cyclists crossing with the light.

In particular, for pedestrians and cyclists who are on the sidewalk and about to cross an intersection from the driver’s blind side — the driver’s right — motorists rarely check the right side for any pedestrian or bicycle traffic looking to make the turn. Pedestrians and cyclists have to yell or scream — and even pound on the car — to get the driver’s attention, especially if, as the driver is looking to his left for oncoming motor vehicles, they are slowly inching forward through the designated walkway for pedestrians — even when pedestrians have the “Walk” light.

Pedestrians-BikesAsk any pedestrian or cyclist and they will tell you it’s a situation they encounter every day. Be it someone making a right turn on red or inching out of a parking lot. Many, if not most, drivers are just not that attentive to all traffic from all directions.

Brenda Miller, founder of PEDal, writes, “Motorists won’t stop until it’s too late. Most parents instruct their kids to stay out of the road and bike and skate on the sidewalk. Most kids don’t understand the dangers of sidewalk riding, especially when going against vehicular traffic. Kids think a green light means “go” and fly from curb to curb. Approaching the intersection from a motorist’s right, then entering the crosswalk is deadly because motorists often don’t look right for oncoming cars; they look left.”

Parents need to teach their kids not to race through cross walks just because the light is green. But drivers need to be aware of the pedestrian and bicycle traffic coming from their right side, their blind side.

In her opinion piece, which can be found HERE, Miller says the bill only allows California Stops at intersections that do not have a red arrow for right turns. So, it’s crosswalks not protected by red arrows that will have the most risk. One reality of such a change is this: most motorists will lazily assume the change applies to all right turns on red, including the intersections with red right turn stop arrows.

Miller also points to this startling statistic in Orange County: “More than 1/3 of Orange County’s injury collisions were caused by drivers failing to yield to people in crosswalks. Crosswalk striping is often ineffective under existing law. California motoring culture is already renowned for gliding around corners without regard to intersections’ limits.”

Trusty TrekShould the California Stop become legal, that statistic could change for the worst.

The bill is SB 986 and like I would urge all Californians who walk or pedal through California’s streets to contact their state representatives HERE and insist they do not allow California Stops to become legal. And in the event SB 986 is passed, contact Governor Jerry Brown and insist he veto the bill if it is passed.

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Thanks to Biking L.A. for the heads up on this issue. If you’re a bicyclist or pedestrian, or someone who walks or runs for exercise and fun, I strongly recommend keeping up with both Biking L.A. and MyFeetFirst. As a long time reader of Biking L.A. I can say much of their content is important information riders and walkers/runners should know.

All photos by Tim Forkes