Street Smarts has been ticking off some members of the cycling community with recent publications of traffic laws related to helping bicyclists and motorists better coexist on the road.
Here are some of the topics the cycling advocates and educators have been emailing about:
- Bicyclists are supposed to ride as close as practicable to the edge of the road except to avoid obstacles ahead, such as opening car doors, potholes and road debris. In the April 26 column, Street Smarts substituted the word “possible” for “practicable.” While dictionaries say the words share similar meaning, the emails said “possible” carries a negative connotation among motorists, who bash cyclists for not riding along the road’s edge. In reality, cyclists, when safe, can take the travel lane automobiles drive in to avoid aforementioned road hazards. When in the midst of cyclists, drivers should make sure they are following road rules, such as not passing too close, using their blinkers and looking for cyclists before making turns.
- The rules of the road printed in the California Driver Handbook are not law, they are “guidelines,” according to one email. The Department of Motor Vehicles takes exception to that.
“The California Driver Handbook is a summary of the provisions of the California Vehicle Code,” said Jan Mendoza, spokeswoman for the DMV’s headquarters in Sacramento. “The (handbook) is vetted through several sources to ensure that the information provided is correct. Unfortunately, every statute is subject to interpretation and many of the laws regarding the operation of bicycles lack the detail to be clear without interpretation.”
- And as recent as last Monday, Street Smarts printed information from a panel of local law enforcement leaders that bicyclists are prohibited from riding in crosswalks. Emails claiming a new law took effect this year that allows cyclists to pedal in crosswalks. They cited California Vehicle Code section 21650(g), which states that, “This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles on any shoulder of a highway, on any sidewalk, on any bicycle path within a highway, or along any crosswalk or bicycle path crossing, where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance.”
This subsection is the last bullet point in vehicle code section 21650, which requires all vehicles to operate on the right side of the road. Law enforcement officials said this section does not allow cyclists to ride in crosswalks.
Bikes on sidewalks
As for the question of whether cyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks, the answer isn’t so clear, as local jurisdictions have the right to make their own rules on the matter.
“The City of Watsonville does not allow riding on the sidewalk anywhere, the County of Santa Cruz allows it everywhere, and the City of Santa Cruz allows it everywhere except commercial zones, etc.,” said Cory Caletti, senior planner and bicycle coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.