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OmniBike Bill (AB 1909) gives bicyclists more rights on the road at the expense of Rider and Hikers

Updated: Jul 27

URGENT ALERT! YOUR E-MAIL LETTERS NEEDED-there is a bill in the California legislature right now AB 1909 that will allow Class 3 E-Bikes - that can go up to 30 miles an hour (basically an electric motorcycle) – on any hiking or equestrian trail in addition to bike trails and paths.


Please write to your California state legislators and tell them to vote no on this bill. Time is of the essence as it will come before the assembly on August 1st. You can read the bill at


https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB1909/2021


The bill’s reasoning is flawed in that the reinstatement of E-bike prohibitions by local agencies will never happen.


The bill removes the current prohibitions of Class 3 E- bikes on any trail (because of their power and ability to attain speeds of almost 30 mph - dangerous for other trail users).


However, if the prohibition is removed, the the local agency is given the option and must make the effort (that’s you and me initiating the effort by asking our City Council or Board of Supervisors) to prohibit Class 3 e-bikes that were previously classified as vehicles (now considered bikes).

Government moves slow (if at all) and a blanket removal of the prohibition puts other trail users at an immediate risk once the bill goes into effect. Further, it’s never a done deal or that such prohibitions will be reinstated even if the community wants it. Too much opportunity and $$$ at stake for bike coalitions and manufacturers to ignore and it will be an uphill effort. Finally, if there is no funding to initiate the prohibition decision process (and everything costs), reinstating the prohibition at the local level will never happen.


It will be devastating for our trails and for our environment and it will increase our search and rescue response and law-enforcement burden.


To send your emails, find your District representatives (there are two for each District - Assembly and Senate) at:


https://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/


You may also consider asking your City Council or County Board of Supervisors to send a letter to vote no on this bill as well. It removes local control of appropriate use on our trails.


You will find a sample letter for your use BELOW. Feel free to edit this letter as you like and share, share, share this information with any and all equestrian riding groups and individuals, and any hiking and or environmental organizations (such as the Audubon Society - bird watchers need safe trails to travel too!) that you may know. We must get the word out ASAP!!!


You can read how CalBike is promoting this bill as expanding e-bike access, and legalizing "commonsense biking". They represent this bill as a significant step forward in recognizing the rights of bicyclists to safely access public bikeways and streets - at the expense of equestrian rider and hiker safety on our trails. You may review their web site here:


https://www.calbike.org/omnibike-bill/


SAMPLE LETTER:


Dear Assemblyperson/Senator ____name____:

As a (lifelong horseman, member of the Backcountry Horsemen, etc.) I recently received notification of California Assembly Bill AB 1909, the Bicycle Omnibus Bill (Bill) (https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB1909/2021). I am writing to you to request that youvote no on the Bill as currently written.


As a bit of background, last year Senate Bill 814 went into effect on January 1, 2022 that changed the classification of Class 3 E-bikes from a vehicle to a bicycle. Class 3 E-Bikes are capable of a maximum speed of 30 miles an hour, and because they are electric, are virtually silent. This is a deadly combination for our recreating equestrian trail riders and hikers.

AB 1909 is the second step in allowing Class 3 E-Bikes (electric motorcycles) everywhere.


The Bill has three parts:


1) Existing law prohibits the operation of a motorized bicycle or a class 3 electric bicycle on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, as specified. Existing law authorizes a local authority to additionally prohibit the operation of class 1 and class 2 electric bicycles on these facilities.

This bill would remove the prohibition of class 3 electric bicycles on these facilities and would instead authorize a local authority, to prohibit the operation of any electric bicycle or any class of electric bicycle on an equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail. This takes away the protections for trail users and the opportunity for public input as to where electric bikes are appropriate in their cities and counties.

We have seen in recent years, there is precious little outreach or public input required before any changes to our trails are developed and implemented. This Bill completely cuts out the public review and comment guaranteed via the California Environmental Quality Act process. Allowing a blanket approval of all E-Bikes on ALL TRAILS takes away from local control on our trails and circumvents the local public process and community planning for our trails.


Implementation of this Bill will also result in even more conflict on our already contentious trails for horseback riders and hikers who currently fear for their safety. Adding a VEHICLE that is capable of motorcycle speeds on our equestrian, hiking and recreational trails is a recipe for disaster. This Bill should be revised to limit E-Bike use on only bicycle paths or trails, bikeways, or bicycle lanes, delete their use on equestrian, hiking and recreation trails, and recognize what is appropriate and safe for URBAN vs. RURAL trail use. 2) Existing law requires a vehicle at an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal, or traffic light, to stop or proceed as directed by the signal. Existing law makes these provisions applicable to pedestrians and bicycles, as specified. Under existing law, a pedestrian facing a solid red traffic control signal may enter the intersection if directed to do so by a pedestrian control signal displaying “WALK” or an approved “walking person” symbol. This bill would extend the authorization to cross the intersection to a bicycle, unless otherwise directed by a bicycle control signal, thus treating bikes as vehicles. The bill defines E-Bikes as bicycles, or as vehicles, as is convenient. This bill would allow the operation of a Class 3 electric bicycle on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail. Yet in the second part of the bill, it authorizes Class 3 E-bikes to operate as vehicles at any controlled intersection. A Class 3 E-bike cannot be treated in the Vehicular Code as a bicycle and a vehicle at the same time. That was the intent of SB 814, to egregiously classify Class 3 e-bikes as “bicycles”. SB 814 and this bill promote bad law and a travesty for recreational trail users. In fact, the majority of the Vehicle Code considers Class 3 E-bikes as vehicles. The bill however, attempts to classify Class 3 E-bikes as first a bicycle, then later in the text as a vehicle. 3) Existing law requires the driver of a motor vehicle that is passing or overtaking a bicycle to do so in a safe manner, as specified, and in no case at a distance of less than 3 feet.

This bill would require a vehicle that is passing or overtaking a bicycle to move over to an adjacent lane of traffic, as specified, if one is available, before passing or overtaking the bicycle. Moving lanes simply for a specified bicycle, traveling with traffic creates more hazards that drivers, especially in congested areas, would have to navigate. In addition, this provision would be a nightmare to enforce.

A bicycle rider has essentially the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of any vehicle (VC § 21200). That means observing speed limits, rules about passing movements, traffic controls and more. Rules of the road that are specific to bicycles also apply to e-bikes (VC § 21202). Those Vehicle Code Sections would also require amendments to make them consistent with the language changes as proposed in the bill giving more opportunity for adverse impacts on travelers using other modes of transport (pedestrians, horseback riders).

The ambiguity in how AB 1909 will be put into practice for Class 3 E-bikes on equestrian trails begs the question if and how VC § 21759 as stated below will be applied, now that Class 3 E-Bikes would not be considered a vehicle:

“The driver of any vehicle approaching any horse drawn vehicle, any ridden animal, or any livestock shall exercise proper control of his vehicle and shall reduce speed or stop as may appear necessary or as may be signaled or otherwise requested by any person driving, riding or in charge of the animal or livestock in order to avoid frightening and to safeguard the animal or livestock and to insure the safety of any person driving or riding the animal or in charge of the livestock.” (Enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3.)

This statute protects horseback riders, carriage drivers and any other livestock from harassment and makes it incumbent on the DRIVER TO ENSURE THEIR SAFETY.


With the conflict in terms between bicycle and vehicle in this bill when referring to Class 3 E-bicycles, will this statute continue to protect equestrian riders, and will it apply to Class 3 e-bikes as they are defined in AB 1909 as a bicycle? If not, this bill would remove protections and put people and livestock this statute is meant to protect, in danger. Further, there are no requirements in the vehicle code nor the bill for liability insurance, driver’s license, or registration to operate a Class 3 E-bicycle - and there should be before ANY privileges are expanded to facilitate their use. The bill will bring legislative chaos on our County trails. Hikers and equestrians will be marginalized and put in danger again at the whim of the biking coalitions. CalBike is actively promoting this bill (https://www.calbike.org/omnibike-bill). Please take into account that there must be equity for all trail users, not the loudest and most well-funded. The bill does not give all trail users their rights.

The bill does not differentiate between urban and rural uses and the extensive environmental impacts resulting from this Bill that will occur by allowing a bike that is as powerful as a motorcycle, capable of speeds of 30 miles per hour on our trails haven't even been addressed. It's bad law, and represents insufficient foresight into its implementation.

This bill has several deficiencies, inconsistencies and is detrimental to the recreational trail users in our County and throughout the State. One size does not fit all when it comes to transportation, recreational trail, and E-Bike use planning. We must maintain safety on our trails and retain local community control. Again, I request that you vote NO on AB 1909.

Sincerely, Your Name and address

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