While the dysfunction and gridlock apparent in our national politics may at times feel insurmountable, we can once again turn to our state legislature for hope. 2022 has the potential to be a transformative year in California. Single-occupancy vehicles remain the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Our traffic congestion crisis costs workers weeks of their lives and our economy billions in productivity, and our state’s record-breaking levels of traffic violence disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. Legislators have responded by introducing an unusually strong crop of bills to address our ailing transportation system. L.A. County’s transportation justice organization Streets for All has been hard at work sponsoring and supporting new legislation aimed to address these issues by reimagining mobility in California.
Active transportation such as cycling and public transit only thrive in places that prioritize those modes, and a pair of bills were introduced to do just that. SB922, from Senator Scott Wiener, makes permanent a fast-track through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It would allow climate-friendly projects such as the Washington Boulevard complete streets initiative, Move Culver City, to complete development within a matter of months rather than years. AB2237, by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, requires cities to evaluate transportation projects by how they each meet emissions reduction goals. Projects that prioritize active transportation are critical to addressing climate change and enabling everyone, not just those with the resources to own a car, to move through our cities safely and efficiently.
Other bills aim to reduce fatalities from traffic violence, which have increased substantially over the past decade in California (especially since the onset of the pandemic as less traffic allowed for deadlier speeding). Two bills to address the problem are sponsored by Streets for All: SB932, from Senator Anthony Portantino, requires cities to implement traffic-calming measures on their deadliest streets; and AB2264, by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, standardizes pedestrian head starts, making pedestrians more visible in the crosswalk before cars are given a green light. AB2336, from Assemblymember Friedman, creates a pilot program for automated speed enforcement on high-injury streets and in school zones.
While less obvious than traffic violence, the issue of noise pollution and its significant detrimental impacts on public health are only recently becoming more widely known. Studies have linked noise pollution to higher risks of high blood pressure and heart disease. Two new bills attempt to address the issue starting with illegally loud modified mufflers commonly used in street racing. SB1079, by Senator Portantino, and AB2496, by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, both tackle the issue head-on, without law enforcement involvement, by creating a pilot program to automate illegal noise enforcement, and by adding muffler inspections to smog checks.
Reducing common barriers to active transportation, including interactions with law enforcement, is imperative to shifting travel habits towards active transportation en masse. AB1713, by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath, allows adult cyclists to yield at stop signs when cars are not already present at the intersection, codifying normal cycling behavior. AB2147, by Assemblymember Phil Ting, would decriminalize safely crossing the street at non-intersections, or “jaywalking” (a term car companies coined to blame pedestrian victims of car crashes). Similar bills were both vetoed last year by Governor Newsom to significant backlash. AB1909, by Assemblymember Friedman, unlocks more barriers to cycling by prohibiting cities from requiring bike licenses and from banning e-bikes on bike trails. It would also require drivers to use a full lane to pass cyclists whenever possible.
In an effort to reduce harm to marginalized communities through transportation policy, AB1685, from our own Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, forgives up to $1500 in parking fines for people experiencing homelessness; AB1778, from Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, would prohibit freeway widening in communities experiencing high rates of poverty or pollution; and AB1919, by Assemblymember Chris Holden, would require transit agencies to give free service to those 25 years old and younger.
Issues of equity, climate, and safety are only exacerbated by antiquated municipal codes. Parking requirements mandated in most cities for all new commercial and residential development create car-dependent communities, increase the cost of housing, and make affordable housing projects financially unfeasible to develop. AB2097, from Assemblymember Friedman, eliminates parking minimums throughout the state for all development within a half mile of high quality transit service.
With a plethora of new legislation aiming to shape how Californians get around, this year could be remembered as a pivotal one in the movement for better transportation across the State. To stay up to date on these bills, follow
@streetsforall on social media or head to streetsforall.org/state to join the fight for safe, sustainable, equitable streets in California.