The New Year is almost here and there will be several new laws or changes to existing law for cyclists that were signed by Governor Jerry Brown during the 2015 legislative session that will take effect on January 1, 2016, as outlined below.
Earbuds or Headsets (SB 491, Transportation Committee): This law, among other things, makes it unlawful to wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears, while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle. This prohibition does not apply to persons operating authorized emergency vehicles, construction equipment and refuse or waste equipment while wearing a headset or safety earplugs.
Highway lane use (AB 208, Bigelow): The law requiring slow-moving passenger vehicles to pull over safely to let traffic pass has been amended to apply to all vehicles, effective January 1, 2016. Bicycles will now be included in the legal requirement that slow-moving vehicles use the next available turnout or other area to let backed-up traffic – five or more vehicles – get by.
Pedal-Powered Vehicles (SB 530, Pan): This law expands the definition of pedicab to include a four-wheeled device that is pedal-powered, has a seating capacity for eight or more passengers, cannot travel in excess of 15 miles per hour, and is being used for transporting passengers for hire. This law sets requirements related to local authorization, operator qualifications and training, financial responsibility, accident reporting, safety equipment, and inspections. The law establishes rules and standards for pedicabs that allow passengers to consume alcohol on board, if authorized by local ordinance or resolution.
Electric Bicycles (AB 1096, Chiu): This law adds an entirely new definition of an electric bicycle to the California Vehicle Code. An electric bicycle is defined as a bicycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. The law creates three classes of electric bicycles. Manufacturers will also need to certify the electric bicycles comply with specified requirements. Electric bicycle riders will be able to use roads similar to other bicycle riders, while providing a measure of local control if safety concerns arise on specific paths or public trails.