The corner on Telegraph Ave between 52nd St. & Woolsey St. seen on Oct. 10, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 413 and Assembly Bill 645 late last week, among 900 pieces of legislation sent to him by lawmakers this year.

AB 413, called the daylighting law, will prohibit drivers from parking along the curb within 20 feet of an intersection that includes a crosswalk. Daylighting is a term transportation planners use to refer to the removal of objects that obstruct people’s line of sight at intersections. Cars parked close to the corners of intersections often block the field of vision for drivers, obscuring the corners where pedestrians are waiting to cross the street and making it more dangerous for anyone, including drivers, trying to pass through the intersection. 

The speed camera bill will add 18 cameras, at most, on roads that Oakland has deemed a dangerous corridor. The city will also be allowed to place cameras near schools and other intersections where deadly collisions occur. The cameras automatically ticket people who are driving over the speed limit. The faster someone is driving, the higher the potential fine. A $50 fine will be given to people driving between 11 mph and 15 mph over the limit, while people driving faster could face up to a $500 fine. 

Lawmakers hope the tickets will discourage speeding. According to researchers, speeding usually leads to more collisions that cause severe injuries and deaths of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Legislators used a 2020 study sponsored by the state’s Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force that found speed safety systems that include cameras “are an effective countermeasure to speeding that can deliver meaningful safety improvements,” according to the law. 

The speed camera law is considered a pilot until 2032 when the state will consider what it has learned and potentially expand it to other cities. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Glendale, Long Beach, and San Jose are also part of the pilot. 

Other pedestrian, cyclist, and driver safety laws were also approved or vetoed recently by the governor. 

Newsom signed Senate Bill 695, a law supported by bike advocates that will require Caltrans to release data about its road development plans publicly, including tracking its expansion or reduction of total miles for all transportation class types, from general purpose lanes, to auxiliary lanes, to the four classes of bike lanes. This law will help the public better understand whether the state is considering the safety needs of pedestrians and cyclists, such as whether there are bike lanes on local highways under the state’s jurisdiction, like on Oakland’s International Boulevard and San Pablo Avenue. 

The governor also signed Assembly Bill 251, which will convene a task force to study the relationship between vehicle weights and injuries and deaths due to collisions. The law will allow the task force to weigh the pros and cons of imposing a vehicle weight fee to raise money to offset the impact of heavier cars and trucks.

Another signed bill, Assembly Bill 436, legalized lowriding across the state, which may bring back a beloved Oakland activity to city streets. Previously, the state prohibited customizing vehicles that lowered their clearance above the roadway.

Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 825, which would have allowed people to bike on sidewalks next to roads that don’t have cycling infrastructure. Proponents of the law argued it would have prevented police from disproportionately ticketing people in Black and brown communities, especially in the Los Angeles area, where lots of roads are unsafe to bike. Oakland currently does not allow sidewalk biking but the law is rarely enforced. 

“In a perfect world, most streets would be complete streets, with safe facilities for all modes of transportation,” Jared Sanchez, the policy director for the statewide bike advocacy group Calbike, said in a statement. “But that’s not the reality today and it will take years to transform every dangerous roadway in California into a safe route for biking. In the meantime, people on bikes must, at times, travel on streets with fast traffic and no bike lanes. By vetoing this bill, the governor has taken an action that will lead to more deaths and injuries of people on bikes.”

Privacy advocates are concerned about the potential abuse or disproportionate impact of speed cameras

California legislators passed the speed camera law after several years of failed attempts due to privacy concerns. Recorded video that could be used to track or surveil citizens without their consent was seen by many as potentially prone to abuse by police or contractors and a target of data theft. The law’s primary author, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, worked with her staff and state organizations to put safeguards in the law. 

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao supported the bill and thanked Newsom on Twitter for signing it, saying it will help “cities like Oakland make our streets safer for everyone who uses them.”

Jared Sanchez, policy director for CalBike, a statewide bike advocacy organization, told the Oaklandside that since cars were proven to be a leading cause of the rise of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, Newsom’s support for speed cameras was “a long-time coming.” 

“It’s about time we increase our safe streets toolbox,” he said. 

Justin Hu-Nguyen, the director for Bike East Bay, the local bike and pedestrian advocacy, said Oakland’s top priority should be safe road design. “Additionally, we want to ensure that funding for automated speed enforcement does not take away staffing or resources allocated to safer street infrastructure projects,” Hu-Nguyen said. 

Other Oakland residents are more worried about the cameras. 

Tracey Rosenberg, from the Oakland Privacy group, told The Oaklandside she doesn’t think automated ticketing is the best way to reduce dangerous speeding. The communities that experience most of the danger, she said, are low-income neighborhoods that have gone without infrastructure for generations and they will be the location of many of the cameras. 

Rosenberg also said that it’s unfortunate the law does not require cities to use the speeding ticket money on infrastructure that will help those communities. “We are concerned that inner city neighborhoods will have lots of money extracted from them without getting much back in the way of improvements,” she said.

Regarding privacy, Rosenberg said that while the new law has “meaningful” changes that “greatly improved” the privacy impacts, her group is still concerned about the system because it will collect critical personal data. “Cities are getting hacked more and more often, as we know well in Oakland, and geolocation and driver’s license info has value on the dark web.” 

Oakland’s street corners are going to see more daylight

The signing of the daylighting law received significantly less fanfare, but it will affect residents in every neighborhood. 

Bike East Bay’s Hu-Nguyen said daylighting is a “crucial tool in making interactions safer for all road and sidewalk users, especially the most vulnerable.” 

In recent years, Oakland has implemented daylighting directly through road design, adding bulb-outs during paving projects. 

The city’s Department of Transportation is expected to contact community members for comment as it develops its strategies for implementing the daylighting law across the city.

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.