It never fails. Bills that seek to make small, but tangible, changes in people’s lives are dismissed as ridiculous by the people they don’t affect. Take Pedro Nava’s Safe Passing bill, AB60, which would mandate that cars give bicyclists 3 feet of space as they pass. Sounds minor, but it could potentialy save dozens of lives every year in California, and make biking in the state more appealing (and remember, everyone who bikes instead of drives means less pollution, less traffic, and a healthier person).

No sooner had I fired off this email to my Assemblymember, Mark Leno, in support of this bill

Dear Assemblymember Leno,

I am writing to encourage your support for AB60, the Pedro Nava Safe passing law. As I am sure you know, the city of San Francisco’s efforts to make bicycling safer have been held up by the intervention of some of our narrow-minded citizens. The State, however, is still allowed to act.

Nava’s bill would help to make cycling safer. I depend on my bicycle as my main mode of transportation and it’s a rare day nobody cuts a pass overly close, occasionally even driving me into the curb.

Every year, more than 100 cyclists are killed in California. It’s time to do something about it.

when I saw this post from the LA Times’s blog Political Muscle:
Another year, another zillion bills. The Times’ Nancy Vogel has sifted through the mounds of legislation already filed by California’s 120 lawmakers. Here are a few offbeat highlights, with our own proposed names attached:

The Lance Armstrong ‘Back Off Buddy’ Protection Act: Assemblyman Pedro Nava wants to require motorists to stay at least three feet to the left of bicyclists when passing them. Under AB 60, violators could be fined up to $250. Perhaps violators will also be required to participate in the Tour de France by riding a Big Wheel.

I can’t read this without hearing Beavis and Butthead saying “heh-heh, heh-heh, he said big wheel”.

I’m pretty clear that this bill is not going to be on the top of many people’s legislative agendas, but it’s a pretty small change that could save plenty of lives. Here’s the email I got today that prompted me to write Leno in the first place:

Hi team mates,

Some of you may have heard that my father was hit and killed while riding his bike lawfully last summer on Highway 35 near Skylonda, which is why I’ve been off the bike more than usual this fall and summer.

A civil case and a criminal case against the elderly driver are pending, but even if we win both (likely, I think) it will really have only a small effect. If one thing could come of this, I’d like to at least think that I was able to make it less likely to happen to another cyclist, including me and you.

Fortunately, I just learned today that State Assemblymember Pedro Nava, who has just assumed chairmanship of the Assembly Transportation Committee, has re-introduced AB 60, a state bill that would require motorists to give cyclists a minimum 3-foot berth when passing.

Here’s a Sacramento Bee article on AB 60:

Here’s the full text of the bill:

I encourage everyone to write letters of support for this bill. I think a letter to Nava, and to your own state assemblyperson would be good.

The writer of this letter, and the hundreds of thousands of Californians who ride a bike, deserve better than a snide comment by our state’s version of the Kewl Kids–the political insiders who think they can define what’s important to Californians. The triathlete whose death prompted Nava to introduce the bill, Kendra Chiota Payne, deserves better.

It’s why I’ll never be a kewl political reporter for the LA Times. I care more about the content of the law than whether it’s “offbeat”.

Photo by Richard Masoner.