If You Want to Know Bike Laws, Don’t Ask the California Highway Patrol

Yesterday, regular reader and MetroRider Calwatch sent me a story from the Daily Bulletin that quoted a member of the California Highway Patrol that bike riding two abreast is always illegal.  The worst part of the article was that the CHP initially said that two abreast riding is legal in certain circumstances but then the agency went to great pains to backtrack and make sure to get out the wrong information. 

Not being an expert on the specific sections of state law, I put out a call for help to help me with background on the story.  What I got was an amazing and detailed take down of the article and the CHP by Long Beach uber-activist Dan Gutierrez.

A quick word about the credentials of Gutierrez to respond to a retired CHP officer when it comes to the rights and obligations of cyclists.  He is a certified instructor from the League of American Cyclists, the policy chair for Caltrans’ District 7 Bike Advisory Committee, and the California Associaiton of Bicycling Organizations District 7 Director amongst other titles and committees.  In his free time, he makes videos about safe cycling and cyclists legal obligations.  In other words, he knows his stuff.

Even though Gutierrez quotes extensively from the article, I recommend reading it before reading on after the jump.

 Michelle Pearl wrote in the Daily Bulletin:

“The California Vehicle Code book weighs over 3 pounds, has over 1,000 pages and contains over 40,000 laws and provisions. I would love to say that I know every code and every nuance of its numerous sub-decimal appendages by heart, but that wouldn’t even come close to being the truth.”

All well and good, but the code sections that are relevant fit nicety on both sides a sub one ounce sheet of 8-1/2” x 11” paper.  In particular 21200, 21650, 21654 and 21202 are the relevant codes to this discussion.

Pearl continued:

… a reader wrote and asked about the legality of bicyclists riding side-by-side. Unable to find a specific mention of this practice in the vehicle code book, I contacted my source in Sacramento, Information Officer Jaime Coffee, who verified that there was no code which specifically stated that the bicyclists riding side-by-side was illegal, although individual municipalities might be able to enforce specialized citywide ordinances.”

It is true that there is no legal prohibition in California for side by side operation by any drivers, or even motorists in very wide lanes.  In addition, the CHP officer has apparently never looked at CVC 21, which requires statewide uniformity of the vehicle codes, unless another specific code gives express authority to local jurisdictions.  Since there are no codes that give local jurisdictions express authority to enact custom movement laws, counties and cities CANNOT enact “specialized citywide ordinances” requiring single file operation because such laws are rendered illegal and unenforceable by virtue of CVC 21.  As a national, state and local cycling advocate and educator, it pains me to read about CA law enforcement agencies like the CHP with officials lacking knowledge of fundamental aspects, such as uniformity, of the California Vehicle Code.

Retired police officer Kevin Cushman took umbrage with this conclusion, and he let me know it in no uncertain terms. Fortified in righteousness from having my answer verified by my ace-in-the-hole in Sacramento, I sent him the contact information to duke it out directly with the Sacramento CHP.

Well, kudos to Officer Cushman for his persistence, as I received the following e-mail from Sacramento:

"Michelle, I was hoping you could run a correction to the answer that we discussed that ran in your column a while back about bicyclists riding side-by-side. After speaking with retired officer Kevin Cushman recently, I decided to pose the question to our folks over in the Vehicle Code section at our Academy. Hopefully, this will prevent anyone from getting a ticket or putting themselves in harm’s way."”

First of all, riding side by side is NOT a safety issue.  Officer Cushman is quite wrong about this, since laws like CVC 21202 are NOT for the safety of cyclists (more on this below), they are designed to facilitate the in-lane overtaking of cyclists by faster motorists, not to protect cyclists’ safety.

VC 21202 (a) indicates that any person riding a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride ‘as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway’ except if they are passing another bicycle or vehicle, if they are making a right or left turn, or if they need to avoid an obstacle or hazard.

This paraphrasing of the law, and the lack of mention of CVC 21200 and CVC 21654 does Daily Bulletin readers a huge disservice, and doesn’t speak well for the thoroughness of Cushman and the CHP.  CVC 21200 requires that cyclists follow the rest of the vehicle codes because they have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers.  

Because of this they must follow CVC 21650 (drive on the right half of the roadway), and CVC 21654 which requires that slower drivers “use the right hand lane for traffic or drive as far right as practicable to the curb or edge”.  Which in turn means that any slower drivers, motorist, motorcyclist or bicyclists are required to use the right hand lane, with no intra- lane positioning restrictions, and only drive as close as practicable to the curb or edge when no marked (painted lane stripes) lanes (and therefore no right hand lane) are present.  Thus slower drivers may use the marked right hand lane any way they see fit, and slower motorcyclists may ride two abreast if they so choose.

Why 21654 is important will be apparent shortly.

Unfortunately bicyclists and no other drivers are subject to a discriminatory law, CVC21202, which forces a further restriction on slower cyclists.  Here is the full text of 21202(a):

21202.  

(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed
less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at
that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or
edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
  (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding
in the same direction.
  (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a
private road or driveway.
  (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not
limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians,
animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it
unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the
provisions of Section 21656.  For purposes of this section, a
"substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and
a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

This law has 4 exceptions, the last two being the most important for through travel.  When any one of the exceptions applies, CVC 21202(a) does not apply at all.  So a slower cyclist is only beholden to CVC21654 when any of the above four exceptions applies.  For some reason police officers don’t seem to recognize this important aspect of traffic law.  Now let’s look at the effect of the last two exceptions:

Exception (a)(3) applies to lanes that are not wide enough to share side-by-side with a vehicle.  In other states like Texas, “substandard width” is explicitly called out in traffic law as lanes less then 14 feet wide.  In CA a typical line width is 12 feet wide, and is not wide enough for safe side by side lane sharing.  The upshot of (a)(3) is that most lanes, particularly those in urban areas, which are often 11’ wide or narrower, are not side by side shareable, so cyclists only need follow 21654, and can ride legally anywhere they want in the right hand lane, including two abreast riding.  This has important practical implications across most urban areas in CA.  In my home city of Long Beach for example, well over 99% of the lane miles in the downtown area has lanes that are under 12’ wide, so CVC 21202 doesn’t really  pply.

This is true of every urban core I’ve visited: LA, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Mountain View, etc.

Now lets look at exception (a)(4) which applies when a cyclist is approaching driveways and intersections (places where right turns are authorized).  In these situations cyclists are also bound only by 21654. The reason for this is to allow cyclists to get way from the edge of the road to avoid being right hooked by  otorists and to avoid left cross turns and intersection/driveway pullouts by motorists.   So in residential or commercial areas with frequent driveways and intersections, a cyclist is essentially always approaching a place where a right turn is authorized, so even if the lane are wide, the cyclists doesn’t have to ride near the curb, and two cyclists can ride side by side.

What we can conclude from these last two exceptions may come as a surprise, but in general, through cycling downtown areas with narrow lanes, and commercial areas with frequent driveways are NOT governed by 21202, only 21654.  Thus two abreast cycling is legal.  Even more interesting is the fact that most residential areas, cyclists are similarly exempt from 21202 because of a driveway every 50 feet, so cyclists are not obligated to ride near the edge in these areas either, and can therefore also ride two abreast.

So you may be asking where 21202 does apply.  Here is what we teach our students in our traffic skills classes:

Lane sharing (riding near the curb) for through travel is only required when ALL three constraints apply:

1)  You are moving slower than other traffic (otherwise control the lane)

2)  You are away from driveways and intersections (otherwise control the lane)

3)  The lane is of safe shareable width (otherwise control the lane)

Here is a link to a video, entitled “The Rights and Duties of Cyclists” that shows examples of controlling narrow lanes and sharing wide lanes away from driveways and intersections.

BTW, on the subject of safety, discriminatory FTR (far to right) laws like 21202 are in effect in 42 US states, with 8 states treating cyclists as full and equal drivers.  To understand more about discriminatory laws, please read the “Equality for Cyclists” (6Es) article I co-wrote with League of American Bicyclists’ Board Chair and fellow Certified Traffic Cycling Instructor, Amanda Eichstaedt.

Also note that the League Adopted an Equity Statement (6Es) that specifically targets discriminatory laws for repeal:

“Equality – The equal legal status and equal treatment of cyclists in traffic law. All US states must adopt fair, equitable and uniform traffic laws, that are “vehicle-neutral” to the greatest extent possible. Cyclists’ ability to access to all destinations must be protected. State and local laws that discriminate against cyclists, or restrict their right to travel, or reduce their relative safety, must be repealed.”

And finally here is a graphic showing the relationships of the 6Es. .

With all this in mind, the discriminatory NY state FTR law explicitly states the reason for the law in the legal text itself:

Ҥ 1234. Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle or in-line skate lanes and bicycle or in-line skate paths.

(a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle or in-line skate shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a  anner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except:

– when preparing for a left turn or

– when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it
unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to
be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to,

– fixed or moving objects,

– vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals,

– surface hazards or

– traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and
a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.”

The key phrase is “near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway … in such a manner as to prevent  interference with the flow of traffic”.  Thus the purpose of the law is NOT for cyclist safety; rather
it is to get cyclists “out of the way” of the flow of traffic (- as if bicyclists weren’t traffic!).  Normally faster traffic is expected make safe lane changes to pass slower traffic in the right hand lane instead of making in-lane passes, whereas slower traffic is normally not expected to “get out of the way” of faster traffic by abandoning control of the right hand lane.

Most of the FTR laws in the US (yes, I’ve reviewed all 42 of them) have a provision exempting cyclists from sharing a lane that is too narrow for safe side-by-side car-bike sharing, and this is a dead giveaway that the purpose of the law is to force slower cyclists, and no other drivers, to abandon control of the right hand lane to allow faster traffic to pass on the left within the same lane.  This isn’t about cyclist safety; it is about motorist overtaking convenience.

The Bulletin quotes the CHP one last time:

So, if a bicyclist is riding next to another cyclist (or side-by-side) than there’s no way the cyclist on the outside could be riding as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway… and therefore would be in violation of VC Section 21202(a) and could be cited by an officer.  Hope that helps…..” Jaime Coffee, Information Officer II, CHP Media Relations.

First of all, the cyclist closer to the center of the road is further “inside” the lane, not “outside”, since the curb is as far “outside” as one can get in the roadway!  While it is true that in, say a 15’ wide and therefore shareable lane, away from driveways and intersections, a leftward cyclist in a pair of slower cyclists that are riding side by side near the curb could be cited, but this is rather the exception
rather than the norm in most urban areas of California!

It is extremely disappointing that so few in law enforcement know the operating laws, and the reasons behind the laws, sometimes discriminatory, that pertain to bicycling on public roads in CA.

31 thoughts on If You Want to Know Bike Laws, Don’t Ask the California Highway Patrol

  1. Excellent reporting! When I was on the CHP I took the time to look these kind of vehicle code questions up. My reputation was good, I even had some nice nicknames for being so knowledgeable about vehicle code sections. Thanks goes out to Dan Gutierrez!

  2. Great article, very good information to know! I have personally wondered about this for a while.

  3. i have to say, when you watch that video, something just doesn’t look right. yeah it’s the safe way to ride but when it comes down to it, cyclists need their own infrastructure, their own lanes. bikes ≠ cars. sorry.

  4. If the “normal speed of traffic” consists of a hundred or so bicyclists, then the exception also applies and riding two or more abreast is not illegal.

    “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time…”

  5. ian Leighton wrote, “i have to say, when you watch that video, something just doesn’t look right. yeah it’s the safe way to ride but when it comes down to it, cyclists need their own infrastructure, their own lanes. bikes ≠ cars. ”

    Perhaps the reason it doesn’t look right is because it’s unusual; that you’re not accustomed to seeing it? But if you let that be the reason to not do it, it will remain a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need more and more bicyclists riding like this, not just Dan and Brian and few other “integrated cyclists” scattered around the U.S.

    Bicyclists having their own bike lanes does nothing to address the main safety issue – intersections – and arguably makes it less safe.

    No, integrated vehicular cycling, as depicted in the video, is the best and probably only way to ride a bicycle safely and comfortably in traffic. Even if, for now, it doesn’t look right. That will change, with time. Just do it!

  6. Traffic Cyclist is correct. I first “discovered” this type of riding years ago – in fact, I thought I’d invented it! (Called it “ride like a car”.)
    The first thing I noticed was that the incidence of “close calls” I experienced dropped to virtually zero.
    Years later, I too became a League Certified Instructor. The biggest obstacle to this safe and speedy method of riding is years of ingrained fear, unfamilarity, and a superstitious belief that it’s safer to “stay out-of-the-way”. (The occasional angry/honking motorist reinforces these beliefs.)
    The facts and available data show that this is BY FAR the safest way to get around by bike.
    Try it. It’ll likely take a few months to get fully acclimated because of the years of accumulated misconceptions, but once you do, you’ll find yourself riding just like you drive, never giving it a second thought.
    The way I used to ride is now a dim memory, and sometimes I can’t believe I ever rode in such a fearful and dangerous manner.

    LCI #1197, Arizona

  7. I’ll echo the other comments suggesting that vehicular cycling practices work. Having adopted this manner of operation in the last year of so has resulted in far fewer conflicts with traffic, especially on four, six, eight and ten lane roads with high speed limits.

    The self-fullfilling reference is valid too. You don’t think it will work, so you don’t try it. When you try it, you find it works.

    All of these suggestions are based on proven cyclist safety.

    Sadly, law enforcement in the eight cities in which I ride have to be educated every time I am stopped by an uninformed uniformed officer. Some refuse to be educated and write meaningless citations.

  8. There is a misstatement by the author here, within the same paragraph. It is first stated that Section 21202(a) does not apply when any of the 4 exceptions applies (correct); but then goes on immediately to say that a slower cyclist is “beholden” to the section ONLY when the exceptions apply (incorrect). The words “do not” should be inserted in this last phrase. This kind of thing only adds to the confusion. THE IMPORTANT FACT IS THAT THE LAW RELATED TO RESPECTIVE RIGHT OF WAY OF MOTOR VEHICLES AND SLOWER TRAVELING BICYCLES IS VERY CONFUSING, AND SHOULD BE CLARIFIED, CONCRETE, AND ALWAYS ENFORCED.

    Apparently politicians are unable or unwilling to make clear law, probably because the most practical is not politically correct at this time, and the most politically correct solutions are not practical. Come on, either give cycles the exact same rights as MVs, considering them to “own” the same space in a lane as they would if they were the size of a motor vehicle (presumably even on a so-called “freeway”), regardless of how fast they are traveling (thus eliminating the necessity for bike lanes); or require that cycles always defer to faster moving MVs, even pulling over and (God forbid) stopping, when necessary to so defer.

  9. “So, if a bicyclist is riding next to another cyclist (or side-by-side) then there’s no way the cyclist on the outside could be riding as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway… and therefore would be in violation of VC Section 21202(a) and could be cited by an officer. Hope that helps…..” Jaime Coffee, Information Officer II, CHP Media Relations.”

    Greetings, when Coffee is referring to the cyclist on the ‘outside’, he means the cyclist on the outside of the other cyclist. ‘Outside’ of the ‘curb or edge of the roadway’.

    I’m a cyclist. I’ve only been riding regularly for a couple years.
    Sometimes when I’m riding I know I have the ‘right away’ but might also be stalling traffic, so I’ll try to get out of the way of other cyclists or vehicles, and so do the people I ride with.

    I’d like to know why there are some cyclists who ride as if they want to make people mad at them? They know there is a ‘car back’ or other cyclists, but they act as if they have something to prove.

    A good example is Christian Stoehr. I heard him tell his story on KFI a month ago. He did everything he could to get that motorist mad at him. He said he was riding side by side and knew the car was a couple hundred yards back and waited 30 seconds after the driver got behind him and blew the horn before he got over, then he shouted F…you into the car window. He may have not done anything illegal, but he did incite that guy to slam on his brakes and almost kill him and his two buddies. Next time the cyclist may not be so lucky!

    Thanks,
    Pete

  10. “A good example is Christian Stoehr.”

    Stoehr is a dick. There are dick drivers and there are dick cyclists. Thompson’s folly was letting a dick get the best of him. Thompson ended up a dick in the end as well and now he’s rotting in jail.

    An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. This is basic shit here, folks. Being able to resist taking revenge on a dipshit riding a bike is a good skill to develop.

  11. i ran a red light on my bicycle and i hear the fines up to 381 dollars is there any bycicle traffic schools ? so i might lower my ticket??

  12. Your interpretation of 21202(a)(3) is absurd and obviously wrong.  The code says the exceptions are “When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions … that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb…” and you claim that means in sub-standard-width lanes that gives you the right to take up the whole lane with a slow-moving bicycle.  But such an action is not “avoiding an unsafe condition” it is exacerbating one.  On your reasoning a solo rider on a 2-lane road with 11′ lanes is welcome to ride just to the right of the yellow line.  Yeah, right! Let me see you try it.

    You are twisting and distorting the code to avoid its plain meaning and claim that it gives you a right to indulge in a dangerous practice, often undertaken to be deliberately offensive to motorists as a political/social statement.  Grow UP!  The law plainly says, and means, that you are required in general to right as close to the curb as practical, and it is physically obvious that this means you cannot ride 2-abreast (or 4-abreast, as I see all too often).

  13. You are wrong. In terms of car-bike side-by-side travel, a lane more narrow than 14′ is the unsafe condition, and motorists must use the adjacent lane to pass. Keeping far right in such a lane (which is typical) is unsafe because if invites overtaking motorists to try to squeeze unto the lane with the bicyclist, dangerously close. If it’s temporarily not possible to change lanes, the motorist must slow down. This is only dangerous if the motorist remains oblivious to the condition until it’s too late to slow down slowly and safely. That too can be mitigated by the cyclist riding further left, perhaps as far left as the center stripe, so that he is noticed sooner rather than later, giving approaching motorists more time and space to plan accordingly.

  14. @9d65574106904192a356c7b661530a66:disqus : You are completely and totally wrong.
    1. Riding in the middle of the lane is NOT exacerbating a dangerous situation.  You only think it is because you do not understand traffic flow.  Motorists do slow down when they come up behind a bicyclist in the middle of the lane.

    2. Riding right next to the yellow line would be as bad if not worse than riding to the far right.  It would invite close passes on the right.  That is the opposite of what is wanted.  Yes, it would be legal but nobody who understands safety would ever consider recommending it because it would be unsafe.

    3. Riding two abreast is not illegal and is not by itself a violation of 21202.  It is only a violation of 21202 if none of the exceptions in 21202 applies.

    4. You are the one who needs to grow up.  Bicyclists are not invading the territory of motorists.  The road is a public shared right of way and bicyclists have as much right to use it as motorists do.  It’s amazing how childish the anti-cyclist types are.  Moving over to pass a bicyclist safely is incredibly easy.  It amazes me how people will whine and make excuses for why they shouldn’t have to do it.

  15. I love how America is so desperate for money they have to actually fine bicyclist now to make thier city money. This is the laws that people are fed up with I just got a ticket tonight for not having a light on my bike from a law that was introduced a few years ago that i had no idea exsisted you would think that when they create these money making laws which serve no purpose but to charge people who are doing no real crime they would have to send the paperwork to the public instead of putting it on thier website. This is why i hate all forms of govt law enforcement and lawmakers. Their bottom line is to write tickets to make money for the city  especially in my city (santa clarita)which is like the 5th safest per capita in america and where 4 out of 10 people are cops or related to cops. Dont ever live in this city unless you want to just give your hard earned money away for pointless tickets.

  16. Hi Damien,
    I realize your article is quite old and now with the “3 foot rule” things have changed.. But I’m concerned that there are situations where various traffic laws will come into conflict and I’m seeking to find the correct balance in adhering to those laws and drive safely. Here is the situation:

    I live in a rural area in North San Diego County. The road I live off of is Camino Del Rey. This road begins at Old Highway 395 (next to Interstate 15) and goes west to Highway 76. It is approximately 6 miles long. The eastern section (about 2.5 miles) has many blind curves and little or no shoulder. (Also note there in that 2.5 miles there is only 4 left turn opportunities) Whereas the western half often has a 2-3 foot “shoulder” to the right of the white line. It is also critical to note that the ENTIRE length of this road has a SOLID double yellow line. Therefore passing is not permitted (VC 21460) during its entire length. The posted speed on most of the road varies between 50 and 45 mph with curves marked at 25, 30, 35 respectively. (there are three particularly tight curves but there are few if any entirely strait sections)

    I drive this road multiple times daily, mostly for business and I don’t have any reasonable alternative routes. I drive a Mini and don’t take up much road space.

    The complication is that this stretch of road has become a cyclists mecca in the last 6-7 years. This leads to many very dangerous situations such as..

    1) cyclists riding 2-3 abreast in the blind curves.
    2) cars passing OVER the double yellow lines, sometimes passing multiple cars and cyclists at the same time, sometimes at the blind curves.

    Though the vast majority of cyclist stay to the right and remain single file, there are a number that do not, and seem to insist that traffic coming from behind them pass them OVER the double yellow line. Even to the point of flipping off and yelling at a driver that refuses to pass them OVER the double yellow lines. I have been in situations where I did not feel I could safely and legally pass, only to have a car behind me pass ALL of us, thereby creating an even greater dangerous situation.

    I agree completely that one should not pass a cyclist regardless, were there is NO shoulder and especially on the blind curves. I do feel that expecting all cars to follow behind two or more abreast cyclists (10-15 mph) for nearly 6 miles is inconsiderate at best and where there is a 2-3 ft shoulder, I would think violates parts of VC 21208 and 21202.

    So.. How does on handle this situation, both legally and safely. I have read many articles on various cyclists sites and though I agree that many motorists need to learn to share the road. I don’t think this justifies a type “in you face, f#$# off ” attitude that I don’t see addressed on the cyclists side of the fence. We all need to share the road. (I posted a few photos to give the feel of the area and typical situations)

    Thank you for your thoughts on this..

  17. I can’t speak with complete authority, not knowing the area as well as you. And I certainly can’t give legal advice of any sort.

    That being said, given the situation that you describe and the picture I would wait behind the cyclists until there was enough of a straightaway where I could safely cross the double yellows and pass. I know its frustrating self-slowing yourself but if they’re going 15 mph and you want to go 45 miles per hour, I’m guessing the most time that would be added to your trip would be a minute or two.

  18. So.. you are suggesting that I violate (possibly get a ticket) and pass by going over the double yellow lines?

    The reason I strongly question this advice, is that many years ago, out around Julian (south east San Diego County) I was on a long STRAIGHT road very similar in width. I came upon a tractor that then pulled over “a bit” and waved me past. I passed .. a mile later I was pulled over by the CHP and given a TICKET for crossing over the double yellow line to pass. There were NO oncoming cars and you could see for miles (grassy level plains). I then asked the officer what I should have done.. He said in essence: NEVER EVER pass anyone over a double yellow line.. period.. no discussion. I will give you a ticket.

    This was an expensive ticket, and he was very clear on the rules of the road..

    So… Why is it so hard to just share? I can see and AGREE that I should be patient and wait until there is ample and safe room.. no problem. But once there is room then the considerate thing to do is make room (go single file) for ALL of us to proceed rather then hog the road just for spite. How is that so hard?

    BTW.. I watched the video and don’t have any problems with the techniques espoused in the video under those conditions. My situation is quite different, and potentially very dangerous for all concerned. It should be addressed by the motoring and cycling community.

  19. You could also just slow down. 15-20mph is not that bad. If there is a safe place to turn out, then they should do so. They are required to do so if there are 5 or more vehicles unable to safely and legally move over to pass and there is a safe place to turn out.

    If they are going 20mph, 6 miles takes 18 minutes. 10mph is very slow for sport cyclists, except up hill. 15-20mph is more common.

    The people passing on blind curves should have their licenses taken away.

    Many states allow crossing double yellow when it is safe to do so in order to pass very slow traffic such as bicycles. The key words there are “when it is safe to do so”, which some people don’t seem to comprehend. The first two versions of the bill to add the 3 foot law to California included a provision for this, but Brown vetoed both.

  20. “If there is a safe place to turn out, then they should do so”..

    Exactly my point.. It is not always a matter of “I have the right”… it sometimes can be a matter of just being considerate. I’m not questioning their “rights” (and we can debate that until the cows come home, and there seems to be a LOT of debate on interpretations of the law..) but I am questioning common courtesy.. That is a big part of our safety on the roads or anywhere.

    As I often told my children when I was teaching them to drive. “You can be dead right, and what will that get you?”

  21. The thing is, you might think it’s safe for them to turn out, but they may not agree. Close passes are a serious and common problem on roads like that. You talk of a 3 foot shoulder. The minimum legal width for a bike lane when there is no gutter is 4 feet. There’s a reason for that. Riding on narrow shoulders tends to lead to close passes. Shoulders also have a tendency to suddenly narrow or disappear altogether. These are just a few of the reasons that a shoulder may not be designated as a bike lane. If the bicyclists are not moving over, it’s likely that they feel unsafe doing so.

    Courtesy does not extend so far as to require bicyclists to put themselves at risk, and riding far right in narrow lanes or on narrow shoulders tends to do just that.

    Courtesy does extend to having patience in the interest of safety. You won’t be stuck behind bicyclists forever. I promise.

  22. I guess I’m clueless… Let see, I want to safely go get some exercise, so I’ll find a heavily traveled winding road with sharp curves and frequent minimal shoulders… Having a right, does not make it “right”…. (as in shouting fire in a crowded theater..)

  23. Thinking that you have a right to drive fast without dealing with bicycles is not a right. You clearly feel entitled to it which is why you feel so hurt when you have to deal with bicycles.

    You’re just making excuses to rationalize your delusions of entitlement. Dealing with bicyclists is not the great and terrible hardship that you are pretending. It’s just barely an inconvenience. Bicyclists have a right to travel on the roads. Grow up and deal with it. It’s not that bad.

  24. Wow.. you have an attitude.. I want us all to be safe.. period. That takes all of us sharing, discussing and appreciating each point of view. Safety comes from cooperation. You are putting words and thoughts on me that just don’t exist..

    I obviously walked into the lion’s den here.. I had hoped to have a reasoned discussion with reasonable people.

    My mistake… Bye…

  25. Hello, I frequently drive Hwy 74 from Palm Desert to get to San Diego. The road is extremely narrow (barely two cars fit, let alone a cyclist or two) with many blind spots. How can this be legal? How can cyclists be allowed to get on this road? I drive this route because it’s quicker to get to my job; it doesn’t seem to be a necessity for the cyclists, though I’m not certain. One day, someone will get badly hurt: the drivers of cars can be pretty aggressive and fast; and the cyclists can be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

  26. CVC 21200(a) says that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of vehicles. That means that they have the right to use the road.

    The CVC only contains provisions to prohibit bicycles from controlled access highways (a.k.a. freeways).

    Bicyclists have a right to use the road. If you can’t handle that, then you shouldn’t be driving. If you didn’t already know that, then you didn’t know the rules of the road or how to drive.

    Aggressive drivers need to be removed from the roads.

  27. Hi John. I feel your pain. I think it was often suggested that 3-foot passing law should have included provision to allow drivers to cross double-yellow line when it is safe to do. Most double yellows are there to discourage drivers to start passes that will take much more space and time than it takes to (safely) pass a cyclist. Like passing a big truck or semi. Or even another car. What would qualify as safe could have been easily codified too, if lawmakers wanted to make it happen.

    When cyclists yell “car back!” to each other, it’s not only to warn about a car approaching from behind. It’s also about “let make some space for that dude in the back to pass”. Nobody benefits from an irritated driver at their back wheel. All the groups I ride with will serialize into single-file, if we are not already single file and/or move further to the right. Those that don’t… Well, people ride their bicycles same as they drive their cars: bad cyclists are bad drivers, and bad drivers are bad cyclists. It’s not about what somebody rides/drives. It’s about what somebody is. I do firmly believe that a dose of courtesy, common sense and good will goes a long way.

    About that cop that wrote you ticket. He seized an opportunity to write you a ticket. Because he could. Not because he should have. I’m not saying cops should turn blind eye on laws. But I think we can all agree time spent writing nit-picking tickets would be much better spent patrolling that road looking for those who are actually dangerous to both drivers and cyclists (texting&driving, excessive speeding, drunk drivers, etc).

  28. Hi Alex,
    Thank you for your reasoned response.. and agree completely with your sentiments..

    Just to share the kind of insanity I cope with.. Last Saturday I was heading east on this same road and was about to come to the worst set of curves, it is a double hair pin, very sharp right, then very sharp left, with a short right curve right after that, a high left bank so it is totally blind and a steep embankment to the right with tall trees. (site of frequent deadly car crashes..) and NO shoulder. It has a posted 30mph sign..

    As I approached this set of curves there was a single cyclist ahead so I slowed and tracked behind him at about 2 car lengths.. (he was going about 18mph and pumping hard as it is slightly uphill). Behind me was a BMW and what I call a “cowboy cadillac” (big truck with duel rear tires). No one of a sane mind would think of passing the cyclist, even over the double yellow lines..

    How wrong I am….

    Guess what, right as we entered the first curve the BMW passes me and the cyclist.. IN THE CURVE. Then, as we begin to exit the second curve the cowboy cadillac starts passing me and the cyclist.. (remember there is still one more blind curve ahead)

    This is what is scary about all of this.. you try and be safe, try and respect everyone’s rights on the road and you find yourself inches from getting killed…

    Bottom line is that this particular road is a killer and for the life of me.. (and possibly the end of my life) I can NOT understand why anyone would ride a bicycle on this road.. it’s a death trap. Believe me, if I didn’t LIVE on the road I would NOT drive on it ever… (unless I was driving an M1A2 Abrams tank). I have seen cyclists take this very set of curves 2 and 3 across.. insane…

    This is not the first time this has happened either.. very typical these days…

    (Note, I move there 37 years ago when it was a quiet country road with a white dotted line… and never a car to be seen..)

    Anyway, thanks again for your reasoned and reasonable response.. Now, if I could just afford a tank…hmmm…

  29. Heh. There’s few roads I often climb that fit that description. Few hairpins in a row, and assortment of other details. Though, time of day I normally climb them is when almost all car traffic is going downhill. Mornings, people living in the hills going to work into valley. People living in the valley going for a quick spin on a bike before work. On my way up, I might get passed by a landscaping contractor or two, going to mow somebody’s lawn up there. It takes almost an hour to climb up most of those roads, so about 2 cars (well, usually smaller trucks, the beat up kind contractors drive) per hour passing me, not bad… On my way down, it’s twisty road, so you can’t really drive faster than average cyclist going downhill. However, it doesn’t prevent some people from attempting to drive faster. When they really shouldn’t. Not because of cyclists. Because of the road. Cyclists would refer to these descents as “technical”. And technical indeed they are, no matter if one is riding or driving (yes, I do drive some of those roads too; so I can attest from both perspectives).

    Thing that I observed while climbing is that a lot of drivers will pull over to let few overly aggressive drivers pass them. Not for curtesy or anything. Simply to avoid getting rear-ended. It’s also trivial to tell somebody drove into curve way too fast for their skills. They can’t keep smooth line through it. They go through it either too tight or too wide, and then they have to correct, then they overcorrect, and so on… And here and there they end up in the ditch too. Basically, those would be the types of that BMW and “cowboy cadillac” from your story.

    Said that. The reason cyclists flock to quiet country roads is… They are quiet country roads with little to no traffic. Some of those roads might not be as quiet as they used to be, but people still go there out of habit or due to their old fame. Sometime, they are much lower traffic than alternatives. And really, there’s no substitute for an actual climb. Sometime I hear suggestions like “why not velodromes or spin bikes or that flat road with ultra wide shoulder”. It’s like suggesting to walk on treadmill in “uphill mode” instead of climbing up an actual mountain. I’m an city boy. However, my California is not California of overpopulated cities. My California is California of towering redwoods, breath taking ocean views, beautiful mountain ridges. And I get to see it that way mostly because of my cycling.

  30. Yes, yes… towering redwoods.. that is a place to go… Wish I could do that again.. (far too many old injuries…)

    I use to cycle everyday through college in the 60s (for 6 years) and would go weeks without getting in the car (VW bus) so I do understand the anger of being almost killed by a irresponsible jerk. (Cal State Fullerton worked in Anaheim, lived in Fullerton)
    But if someone comes to the lions den and seeks a reasoned discussion, it seems that attacking and insulting that person is not in the best interest of the cycling sport. It does not lead to safety and the good will that can alter bad habits and frustrations.

    As far as the quiet country road.. I too wish it still was a quiet country road. It is not, and has not been for nearly 25 years. But the last 10 years there has been a dramatic increase in traffic, both car, truck, motorcyclists, and cyclists, and it is a deadly mix. (Note, late at night and on weekends motorcyclists use it as a race way..) It has become a short cut from Interstate 15 to the newer section of 76. Many if not the majority of these drivers are rushing to and from work, this creates a very low tolerance for anything going 15-20 mph… (I also strongly agree that the majority DON’T know how to drive a winding road.. It’s appalling..) NOT an excuse, just reality.

    They are now working on the final leg of 76 from Mission to Interstate 15. (which currently is single lane, very narrow, very crowded and very fast). When that is finished you won’t see me much on Camino del Rey (that is the name of the road in this discussion). I don’t use the 76 route now because it is even more dangerous than Camino del Rey. But regardless, Camino del Rey is a death trap and there is at least two or more deadly head-ons each month. From where I live I can hear the impact. And the next day, the glass, skid marks, and torn down fences.

    I know some here are thinking that I want them to “get off my road”.. NO.. it’s not my road, but it is dangerous for everyone and jerks of all forms make it all the more dangerous.. I live here, I can’t avoid it. There are cyclists that use the road wisely and they and I get along quite well, always have, always will. BUT, I do fear for their lives, and I honestly don’t want to get in the middle of the crossfire… (like I did the other day…). It is as simple as that.

    It has been nice chatting and I’m very glad to have had this discussion with you. I will think of you when I encounter the next cyclist on the road and will try my very best to keep them safe. Hopefully, others will learn from your example. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Times Looks at the State of Cycling in Los Angeles

|
Image by Ken Kwok/ Los Angeles Times Over the past two days, the Times has written five articles about bicycling in Los Angeles.  Because these articles appear in L.A.’s paper of record, and this is the largest look the Times has given to cycling in Los Angeles in recent memory, Streetsblog is going to take […]

How Mike Eng and the Auto Lobby Stalled on Safe Streets

|
So what happened? Despite the support of just about everyone in Los Angeles, A.B. 766 didn't muster the support to even come to a vote at the Assembly Transportation Committee Hearing yesterday. How could such a slam dunk piece of legislation, a bill that would protect cyclists and pedestrians from the increased speeding of drivers, be such a non-starter with the State Legislature?

Is It Time for California to Adopt the “3-Feet-Law?”

|
Image: 3FeetPlease.com More and more states are adopting laws that  protect cyclists from passing cars by requiring that cyclists receive a three foot buffer on their left before any vehicle can pass them.  According to a recent USA Today article, fourteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted the three-foot-law and it has already […]