From the indispensable BikinginLA blog comes a call to point an angry finger at the leadership of the Northern and Southern California-based AAAs because of their insistence that Senate Bill 910, which would require drivers in the state to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind, is a bad idea.

Look, I understand that an organization has to operate in what it perceives to be the best interests of its membership, but the problem here is that the Automobile Club of Southern California and the California State Automobile Association are lobbying hard about the “detriments” of the potential law without any facts to support their claim.

They insist that SB 910’s three-foot passing provision might confuse and inconvenience drivers, which could ultimately cause vehicular collisions and result in millions of revenue dollars cumulatively being lost. Yet such a conclusion was submitted basically as a stand-alone statement, with no corroborating evidence. Given that 19 other states have enacted three-foot passing laws, the oldest one on the books being enacted in Wisconsin 38 years ago, you’d think that evidence of extensive confusion and fender benders and untold amounts of money lost would be there… unless it isn’t.

So instead like a schoolyard bully the AAA is standing before our state’s senators and assemblymembers and demand they kill this bill… just because!

So I wrote to CEO Thomas McKernanan of the SoCal AAA (below) and sent the same thing to Paula Downey of the NorCal AAA and I told them how reprehensible and irresponsible they are being and that as a long-time member of their group this is just not the kind of battle that I want my dues financing. And I copied my state assemblyman and senator:

Thomas V. McKernan
Chief Executive Officer
Automobile Club of Southern California
2601 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007-3254

Dear Thomas McKernan,

As an otherwise proud and faithful 28-year member of AAA I’m writing to express my concern and disappointment with its opposition to Senate Bill 910, which would require drivers in California to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind.

With 40% of adult bicyclists who die in collisions with vehicles being killed by drivers passing them from behind, this is the single largest cause of such deaths. Existing law contributes to this problem by failing to specify how much clearance drivers should give bicyclists. SB 910 provides that specification.

I read that at recent legislative hearings in Sacramento your lobbyists argued SB 910’s 3-foot passing provision might confuse and inconvenience drivers and cause traffic delays. Yet such a conclusion was submitted without proof. They could not provide any evidence of these consequences in the 19 other states that have enacted three-foot passing laws, including Wisconsin, which enacted its three-foot passing law 38 years ago.

I wouldn’t be surprised if AAA lobbyists were in Madison back then arguing with the same unsubstantiated claims against such a proposal. But it’s a different world now, and for AAA to be willing to sacrifice lives today instead of supporting guidance that will save lives is reprehensible.

As a driver, I take seriously my responsibility to share the road safely with bicyclists and other road users who are particularly vulnerable to vehicle collisions — and I see all too often drivers who don’t. That’s why I support the easy-to-understand direction for drivers provided in SB 910 and why I find AAA’s opposition to SB 910 dangerously irresponsible.

And so I strongly urge you and your organization to reconsider such a narrow-minded position. I assure you, since this is how AAA is opting to spend my dues, I’m strongly reconsidering whether or not to continue as a member, one now substantially less proud and faithful.

William Campbell

cc: California State Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo; State Senator Curren Price