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Cycling expert questions Street Smarts on hands-free cell phone law
Dear Street Smarts, Q: Your recent publication that bicycles are not subject to cell phone laws is incorrect. California Vehicle Code section 21200 states that 'Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division...’ This code section makes the cell phone law applicable to bicycles whether or not the law was specifically written for motor vehicles. DMV does not enforce the traffic laws, law enforcement does. Did you check with any law enforcement source before publishing such an article? Did you inquire about section 21200 when you asked Mr. Botello your questions? As a League of American Bicyclists, League Cycling Instructor, we are required to know the vehicle code and how it applies to bicycles in order to properly educate cyclists how to operate their bicycles safely. I know that this is a local paper, but providing the public with incorrect information when it comes to the law and safety is an injustice to the community. Sincerely, Kate Cassera, via email A: Thank you for your letter, but you are mistaken in your interpretation of the law. California's hands-free cell phone law specifically targets motor vehicles. Bicycles are not motorized, they are people-powered. Also, while there is that rule that cyclists can be held subject to the same laws as automobiles, the CVC makes a point to specify the rules of the road as they pertain to cyclists in separate sections. Such is the case for laws that cover DUI, lighting and obeying traffic signals. But for this law, the CVC does not offer a section or subsection that specifically targets cyclists. As for my methods of tracking down the information printed in this column, I read the cell phone law, as well as the law you sent me before seeking advice from local experts, including law enforcement. Each source gave me a different answer, thus continuing Dianne and her husband's debate. That's when I turned to the DMV's Sacramento headquarters. Typically, before issuing an answer, DMV representatives research the law, both by looking it up in the CVC and running it by the DMV's legal department to make sure their interpretation is correct. After reading your email, I gave another call to the DMV and added the CHP headquarters in Sacramento to my list. They both confirmed that CVC sections 23123 and 23124 are specific to motorized vehicles. Officials at both agencies field this question often, but still referred to the CVC before answering the question. Personally, I encourage you to continue to suggest that cyclists use hands-free devices to chat on their cell phones while they ride. It's the safer thing to do.