Working in Sacramento to Improve Biking in SF

Sacramento” by Flickr-user seliaymiwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Editors: This story was originally published in Issue 159 of our quarterly Tube Times magazine, one of many perks of membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The future is now, and we need laws to match.

Your SF Bicycle Coalition’s advocacy has always found strength within San Francisco’s borders. In recent years, we’ve also seized opportunities to advance state-level policies that make SF streets more livable and bikeable. While we always look to our state partners at the California Bicycle Coalition for their leadership on an array of statewide issues, we’ve begun complementing their efforts by advocating for legislation in Sacramento that urgently impacts San Francisco’s streets.

And we’ve been busy in the state capitol lately.

Late last year, the promise of autonomous vehicle technology was becoming more and more real. Each week, it seemed that a new company began testing their LiDAR-equipped vehicles on our streets, looking to deliver a future of driving that could significantly reduce traffic collisions. Uber invited Brian Wiedenmeier, our executive director, to see this technology first hand. After his first test ride, in which a vehicle made an illegal and unsafe right-hook-style turn across a bike lane, it was clear that the technology was not there yet. Nevertheless, Uber started relying on those very same autonomous vehicles to pick up passengers, engaging in illegal, dangerous behaviors and operating without the required permits. State regulations were crucial in our successful campaign to see that those unready vehicles were removed from San Francisco streets shortly thereafter.

To ensure that our City continues toward our Vision Zero goal of eliminating serious traffic collisions, we appealed to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which is in the process of overhauling existing autonomous vehicle regulations. Supported by San Francisco’s Vision Zero Coalition, we sent the DMV strong, detailed recommendations for updating these regulations to ensure the safety of everyone using our streets. In particular, the regulations must ensure the safety of those most vulnerable: people walking and biking.

We also support Assembly Bill 87, penned by Assemblymember Phil Ting to increase fines for companies skirting autonomous vehicle regulations. Realizing the potential of autonomous vehicles to reduce collisions is a big goal of the SF Bicycle Coalition, as is ensuring that this technology is tested and deployed in ways that do not expose people to additional danger in the interim.

Another technological innovation already reducing speeds and collisions in over 140 communities across the country is Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE), which is the use of camera and radar technology to automatically enforce speed limits. In Washington, D.C., for instance, fatal collisions have fallen by a jaw-dropping 70 percent since ASE use began. Speeding is the number-one cause of collisions in San Francisco, and ASE could be an immensely effective tool to make our streets safer. Before San Francisco can implement ASE, however, it must be legalized at the state level. Assembly Bill 342, introduced by Assemblymember David Chiu with support from Assemblymember Phil Ting and Senator Scott Wiener, would create a five-year pilot program permitting ASE in San Francisco and San Jose.

As with our advocacy here at home, our efforts in Sacramento are directed towards delivering the safe streets that all San Franciscans deserve. Through updated regulations for autonomous vehicle technology and implementation of ASE, we envision city streets that are inviting and safe for people of all ages to walk and bike.

The Tube Times is published quarterly as one of the many benefits to members of the SF Bicycle Coalition. For a complete list of membership benefits, or to join/renew today, click here.

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