UNITED STATES—As the world transitions off fossil fuels and into a greener phase, active modes of transportation, such as walking and cycling, need to be prioritized. Unlike high-speed rail and electric vehicles, active transport directly promotes the health and well-being of users through encouraging physical activity.

One major impediment to cycling is safety on the roads. Most roads are built with only cars in mind, and therefore, cycling can be rather hazardous. California has recently passed several important laws to promote cycling and cycling safety:

Remote Traffic Enforcement

Traffic officers can now issue citations remotely based on camera footage to any drivers blocking bicycle lanes. Previously, traffic officers had to stop, write a paper ticket, and place it on the offending vehicle, which impaired the safety of everyone in the vicinity and further blocked traffic flow. Blocked bike lanes can force riders into traffic lanes, putting them at greater risk of being struck by a vehicle.

Walk Means Go

Rather than instill special bicycle traffic signals at all intersections or force cyclists to follow the traffic signals intended for cars, the lawmakers decided it was easier to allow cyclists to proceed when the walk signal is activated. This somewhat controversial decision will allow cyclists to take advantage of Pedestrian Leading Intervals (IPLs).

The IPL is a proven way to save pedestrians’ lives. Normally, when the traffic lights change, there is a brief interval (usually around 2.5 seconds) when all of the lights are red, causing all traffic to come to a halt. If this interval is extended to three to seven seconds, and the appropriate pedestrian walk sign is activated, pedestrians can start crossing before any cars start moving.

This sounds like a trivial feature, but it has been shown to reduce pedestrian-car accidents by almost 50% and completely eliminate the problem of pedestrians being hit by cars turning left. Giving pedestrians an IPL forces all of the drivers to come to a halt and take a good look at the intersection before proceeding.

Around 90% of serious cyclist-car accidents occur in intersections. A pilot study in New York found that allowing cyclists to use the IPL reduced the rate of serious cyclist-car accidents by 37%. It is hoped that allowing cyclists to take advantage of IPLs will improve their safety without compromising the safety of pedestrians. Cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians when crossing during an IPL.

Reprogramming existing traffic signals to incorporate an IPL is significantly less costly and time-consuming than installing new bicycle traffic signals.

Bikes on Escalators

Cyclists are now allowed to transport their bicycles on BART escalators. Previously, they were required to carry them up and down the stairs or cram them into the few elevators available. This change is expected to improve the commuting experience for people who use cycling for local transport and trains for covering longer distances.

Bikes in apartments

Previous laws allowed landlords to ban tenants from storing bicycles in their rental units. These laws have been repealed and tenants can now store bicycles, e-bicycles, and scooters in their units. For fire safety, all batteries must be UL-certified. Landlords who do not want these devices inside the rental units have the option to provide a secure storage and recharging facility instead.

California’s Bike Friendly Policies

California continues to be on the forefront of green transportation. Cycling is just one way residents can embrace sustainable mobility, but creating bicycle friendly roads is imperative. In 2022, there were 8,888 bicycle accidents in the state resulting in 196 fatalities. Passing laws to make cycling more accessible and safer across the state can increase the use of this type of green transportation, while reducing the risk to cyclists.