AB 1909: The “Omnibike Bill” Gives Cyclists More Rights on the Road 

Photo by Dustin Snipes

A core tenant of CAMTB’s work is tracking and influencing legislation that affects trails, cycling, and public lands. As a result, we have been tuned in to the ongoing development of AB 1909 to ensure that it is precise in its language so it serves the larger cycling community in California.

Matthew Blain, CAMTB & SF Urban Riders Board Member

Authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, AB1909 is a collection of improvements that make it safer for people riding bicycles on roads. As our friends and at CalBike noted in their overview of AB 1909, “(The bill) represents a considerable change in the way California treats bicyclists.” In its current form, the legislation:

  1. Creates a margin of safety for cyclists – motorists are to change lanes wherever possible when passing a cyclist on the road
  2. Makes walk signals apply to bikes too –  the legislation would permit bikes to start crossing the street with the pedestrian signal rather than waiting for the light to turn green for cars.
  3. Eliminates bicycle licensing ordinances – municipalities won’t be able to prohibit the operation of an unlicensed bike, though they can still offer voluntary licensing programs.
  4. Expands access for e-bikes –  the legislation clarifies where e-bikes can and can’t be prohibited. It will open more bikeways to e-bike riders while allowing them to be restricted on hiking and horseback riding trails by local agencies and municipalities

First look…

The initial version of the e-bike access language concerned some trail users, including cyclists. Namely, it removed the blanket prohibition of class 3 electric bicycles on bicycle paths, bikeways, bicycle lanes, equestrian trails, hiking, and recreational trails. The preliminary version also prevented local jurisdiction from prohibiting class 1 and class 2 electric bicycles on these same facilities.

CAMTB contacted Assembly Member Laura Friedman’s office and expressed its concerns with the blanket allowance of Class 3 electric bicycles on trails. Coalition members also expressed concerns that the bill, in its then current form, removed the local authority’s ability to prohibit class 1 and 2  electric bicycles. Consistent with CAMTB’s Statement on Electric Bicycles, it is the Coalition’s position that while we are generally in favor of Class 1 electric bicycles on trails, the decisions should ultimately reside at the local/community level.

Take two…

AB 1909 has since been amended and now, better reflects the Coalition’s position on electric bicycles. Specifically, “Local authority is authorized to prohibit the operation of any electric bicycle or any class of electric bicycle on an equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.” Given this important amendment and the safety considerations for cyclists included in the bill, CAMTB is supportive of AB 1909’s revision of the vehicular code.

Bill Status:

  • Current Location (As of July 29): Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Recent Activities: 
    • Passed Senate Transportation Committee, Jun 14, 2022
    • Passed Assembly Floor May 2, 2022
    • Passed Assembly Appropriations Committee, Apr 27, 2022
    • Passed Assembly Transportation Committee, Mar 28, 2022

Compare Bill Versions: (source)

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