Dear Street Smarts,
Q: I’ll start off by saying most bike riders in this town are irresponsible and as a daily bike commuter, I would like to see more enforcement on the wrong-way, red-light running, and generally careless bike riders who give a bad rap to the few of us who obey the rules.
Having said that, I wish that more drivers understood how to navigate a right-hand turn.
Could you please post the following taken from the SF Bike Coalition’s website, http://www.sfbike.org/?bikelane_right_turns? Nearly everyday I bike commute, I have to deal with drivers who violate this rule — I’m talking to you: male driver, wearing a hoodie, blue jeep who nearly took me out on Soquel drive this morning.
How is a car supposed to make a right turn from a street with a bike lane? It’s one of the most widely misunderstood traffic rules, at least in California. Most cyclists, motorists, even cops don’t get it, and the DMV doesn’t express the concept as clearly as they should.
A right-turning car is supposed to move into the bike lane before the intersection, anywhere from 200 to 50 feet before, after first signalling the lane merge, then merging right to the curb lane, and then finally making the actual turn when safe.
The guiding principle is to always make a right turn from the right lane and a left turn from the left lane, or left turn pocket if there is one. Turning across lanes is a big no-no, since it can, and often does, result in crashes and near-crashes, especially ‘right hook’ collisions frequently suffered by bicyclists.
It’s similarly dangerous for cyclists to make left turns from a right lane. And it’s the same process in reverse to do it correctly: signal a left merge, merge left when safe while yielding to any traffic already in that left lane, signal a left turn and make the turn when safe.
A bike lane is a travel lane, like a standard travel lane, it’s just not meant to have motor vehicles ‘traveling’ in it. But to make a right turn, any vehicle — bike, car, truck, etc. — is supposed to be in the right lane, so a motor vehicle needs to safely merge into the bike lane while yielding to any traffic already in that bike lane before making the turn.
In San Francisco, streets with bike lanes usually have the left sideline of the bike lane dashed and sometimes dropped altogether the last 50-100 feet or so before an intersection, but hardly anyone ever explains how it’s supposed to work, or why it’s supposed to work that way. If you go to our Bike Ed classes, you’ll learn this along with a lot of other useful things.
Here are the pertinent parts of the California Vehicle Code:
- Motor Vehicles and Motorized Bicycles in Bicycle Lanes
21209. (a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207 except as follows:
(1) To park where parking is permitted.
(2) To enter or leave the roadway.
(3) To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection. (b) This section does not prohibit the use of a motorized bicycle in a bicycle lane, pursuant to Section 21207.5, at a speed no greater than is reasonable or prudent, having due regard for visibility, traffic conditions, and the condition of the roadway surface of the bicycle lane, and in a manner which does not endanger the safety of bicyclists.
- Turning Across Bicycle Lane
21717. Whenever it is necessary for the driver of a motor vehicle to cross a bicycle lane that is adjacent to his lane of travel to make a turn, the driver shall drive the motor vehicle into the bicycle lane prior to making the turn and shall make the turn pursuant to Section 22100.
San Francisco Traffic Code addresses CVC 21209 (a) (1), that bit about being legal to park in a bike lane, by prohibiting it in almost all cases (SEC. 38.N).
Chris Coburn, via email
A: “This is a great topic,” said Sarah Harmon of the Community Traffic Safety Coalition. “I would first use it as an opportunity to promote education, rather than or in addition to increased bicyclist citations, as a way to encourage safer cycling practices. Our Bicycle Traffic School is a great option, and one that cited cyclists may have the option of attending in lieu of paying a fine: www.sctrafficsafety.org/BikeTrafficSchool.”
Meanwhile, Officer Sarah Jackson of the CHP’s Aptos office cited the vehicle code section to your list, which supports your statement about it being OK for vehicles to merge into the bike lane to make a right turn, as well how to make a left turn:
Turning upon a highway
22100. Except as provided in Section 22100.5 or 22101, the driver of any vehicle intending to turn upon a highway shall do so as follows:
(a) Right Turns. Both the approach for a right-hand turn and a right-hand turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except:
- Upon a highway having three marked lanes for traffic moving in one direction that terminates at an intersecting highway accommodating traffic in both directions, the driver of a vehicle in the middle lane may turn right into any lane lawfully available to traffic moving in that direction upon the roadway being entered.
- If a right-hand turn is made from a one-way highway at an intersection, a driver shall approach the turn as provided in this subdivision and shall complete the turn in any lane lawfully available to traffic moving in that direction upon the roadway being entered.
- Upon a highway having an additional lane or lanes marked for a right turn by appropriate signs or markings, the driver of a vehicle may turn right from any lane designated and marked for that turning movement.
(b) Left Turns. The approach for a left turn shall be made as close as practicable to the left-hand edge of the extreme left-hand lane or portion of the roadway lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle and, when turning at an intersection, the left turn shall not be made before entering the intersection. After entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in that direction upon the roadway being entered, except that upon a highway having three marked lanes for traffic moving in one direction that terminates at an intersecting highway accommodating traffic in both directions, the driver of a vehicle in the middle lane may turn left into any lane lawfully available to traffic moving in that direction upon the roadway being entered.
The California Vehicle Code can be viewed online at http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/vctoc.htm.