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Checking in on the DMV’s New Driver’s Manual

12:42 PM PDT on March 11, 2008

The California Department of Motor Vehiclesrecently updated the state's driver's manual. While much of the information is the same as the one I studiedto earn my license last fall, there is some new language involving the rights and responsibilities of cyclists and automobile drivers.

There are also some errors and strange placement of bike related information. For example, the diagram on the correct and incorrect way to pass a cyclist with a car is included in the section "Bicycle Lanes" on page 18 and there is no text explaining what the images mean.

Not treating the issue of cars passing cyclists as a premier safety issue is an especially galling omission given how many cyclists are clipped by passing cars, or just lose control of their bike when a driver passes too closely. Just last week, the Los Angeles biking community received sad news that a veteran cyclist lost control of his bikeas a result of a car passing too closely and was killed in the resulting accident.

My suggestion is to move the images to page 40 with the rest of the responsibilities of drivers when they see a cyclist and add another bullet point to the "Driver's Must" section reading, "always keep significant distance between your car and a bike while passing the cyclist. If the driver cannot leave several feet, the driver shouldn't pass the cyclist at any point."


Is it just me, or does having this picture in the section on bike lanes somewhat imply that it is ok to pass a cyclist and be partially in the bike lane?

Below is the list of drivers' and cyclist's rights and responsibilities to share the road with each other reprinted from page 40 of the manual. At first glance, besides not writing out the safest way for cars to pass cyclists, I notice that the manual states that cyclists should not use the sidewalk, a right cyclists have in Los Angeles. 

Bicyclists on public streets have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. Respect the right-of-way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with other drivers. Here are some critical points for drivers and cyclists to remember:

Drivers must:

- look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning right.

- safely merge toward the curb or into the bike lane.

- not overtake a bicyclist just before making a right turn. Merge first, then turn.


- must ride in the same direction as other traffic, not against it.

- must ride in a straight line as near to the right curb or edge of the roadway as practical-not on the sidewalk.

- must make left and right turns in the same way that drivers do, using the same turn lanes.

- may legally move left to turn left, to pass a parked or moving vehicle, another bicycle, an animal, or to make a turn, avoid debris, or other hazards.

- may choose to ride near the left curb or edge of a one-way street.

- may use a left turn lane. If the bicyclist is traveling straight ahead, he or she should use a through traffic lane rather than ride next to the curb and block traffic making right turns.

Image: California Department of Motor Vehicles

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