In the wake of the January death of UCSB student Kendra Payne, who was killed in a bicycling accident, Assemblyman Pedro Nava proposed a new state law on Monday that would require motor vehicles to leave at least three feet of space when passing bicyclists on the road.
Nava announced the introduction of Assembly Bill No. 1941 in the California State Assembly during press conferences in both Ventura and Santa Barbara and said he hopes to have the law approved by the assembly and Governor Schwarzenegger within six months. Nava said the A Measure of Safety law was inspired by Payne’s death, which occurred after she was hit by a truck trying to pass her with only one foot of clearance on a Goleta road.
Approximately 40 people, including members of local bike clubs, residents and Payne’s family and friends attended the Ventura press conference. Richard Payne, Payne’s father, also spoke at the two press conferences along with Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennet. During the conferences, Richard Payne showed pictures of his daughter and Nava passed out 21 yardsticks to represent the loss of Payne’s 21 years of life.
Nava said he thinks the law is necessary because there is currently no required distance for motor vehicles trying to pass bicycles.
“The tragic death of Kendra highlights the need for legislation requiring a safe passing distance between a motor vehicle and bicyclists,” Nava said. “I am honored to carry this legislation in her memory in order to prevent more tragedies from occurring.”
Richard Payne said he thinks the proposed law will help educate and motivate drivers to take more care when passing cyclists.
“This legislation is not about us – it’s not about my daughter, it’s not about my wife, it’s not about me,” Payne said. “Motorists must realize that cyclists are not simply objects that slow them down on their way to a destination. Cyclists are human beings, with families and friends who love them.”
Members and representatives of the UCSB triathlon team – of which Kendra Payne was a member – the Channel Islands Bicycle Club, the California Bicycle Coalition, Trek Bikes and Grey’s Bike Shop attended the Ventura press conference in support of the proposal.
Shane Flores, a UCSB graduate student and triathlon team member, said he thinks motorists who do not take precautions around bicyclists often put them in danger.
“I think it’s extremely important to have safer roads, and to make sure something like what happened to Kendra never happens again,” Flores said.
Ruth Owens, a Channel Islands Bicycle Club member, said more people are becoming interested in the sport of cycling, making the need for bike safety laws more urgent. Michelle Hoffman, also a Channel Islands Bicycle Club member, said he thinks the proposed bill will send a new message to motorists.
“I think instead of ‘share the road,’ it should be ‘slow down and give us a few feet,'” Hoffman said. “Bicycles and drivers are confused because there is no law that is specific enough.”
Legislation similar to the A Measure of Safety law already exists in Arizona, Minnesota, Utah and Wisconsin. Nava said he thinks local residents should continue to contribute their comments about the legislation through letters and his website, http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a35/, so that the final bill will reflect the community’s concerns.