On the beat with the CHP

In an attempt to keep this blog current and hip, I try to arrange ride alongs with local law enforcement. On Wednesday, I rode with the California Highway Patrol. Expect to see blurbs about that ride in upcoming columns. Here’s the first installment. At around noon Wednesday, we heard a call go out over the emergency radio frequency about a vehicle versus bicyclist crash on East Cliff Drive at 17th Avenue. A 67-year-old woman was riding her bicycle eastbound on the sidewalk when a Toyota sedan that was leaving the shopping center there, witnesses told California Highway Patrol Officer Rich Valdez, who investigated the crash. She suffered an injury to her left knee and the front wheel of her bike was bent. Sue Miller and Tom Cardoza, of Pleasure Point, were traveling westbound on East Cliff Drive and about to make a right turn into the center when they stopped to let the cyclist pass. The cyclist had stopped at the shopping center’s driveway opposite the exiting Toyota, waiting for the right-of-way, they said. After seeing Miller and Cardoza stop, the Toyota’s driver, who had already been at the intersection waiting to turn right onto westbound East Cliff Drive, never saw the cyclist approach from his right side when he began to pull out of the driveway. But by then, the cyclist had begun to cross the driveway and into his path, they said. That’s when he hit her. “She rolled up onto the car’s hood, then rolled onto the ground and almost under the car,” said Miller. “I thought she was going to be run over. I never want to see anything like that ever again.” A dog that was riding in the cyclist’s front cargo basket had gotten loose and was corralled by bystanders, who dropped it off at the cyclist’s neighbor’s home, witnesses said. The man who hit the cyclist drove her to the hospital for treatment, Valdez said. The cyclist was ruled at fault for the collision but not cited. Below is a list of rules of the road, cycling suggestions and factoids as they pertain to cyclists from http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/curriculum/Unit%209.pdf.
    Sharing the road: Bicycles
  • A bicycle is a device upon which any person may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels.
  • As you may recall, the definition of a pedestrian did not include bicycles. This is because bicycles are legally considered to be vehicles in California.
  • Therefore, bicyclists are required to obey most of the same laws and have most of the same rights as do automobile drivers.
  • The motor vehicle code addresses issues associated with the registration, necessary equipment, and operation of bicycles on the roadway.
  • Over 100 bicyclists are killed each year in California. Every six hours a bicyclist is fatally injured in the US. 49% of all bicyclist deaths occur to youths age 16 or younger; 86% of all bicycle accidents involve an automobile or truck.
  • Motorists failing to yield the right-of-way to a bicycle cause 42% of bicycle-related accidents; 39% of bicycle accidents occur because cars make turns without noticing bicyclists and 87% of bicyclists in California who die in an accident were not wearing a safety helmet.
  • Bicycles must follow many of the same rules as motor vehicles including: (a) stopping for stop signs and red lights, (b) riding with the flow of traffic, (c) use of left-hand turn lanes and arm signals, (d) speeding laws, (e) rules against impeding traffic, (f) using lights at night, (g) yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway, and (h) laws prohibiting riding while intoxicated. However, there are some differences between the laws for motorists and those for bicyclists. For example, bicyclists in certain age groups must wear helmets, and there are special signs that bicyclists must follow that automobiles do not.
  • As a bicyclist, you should know the rules of the road and be able to apply them to bicycle riding. You should also know how to ride safely to avoid collisions with automobiles, pedestrians, fixed objects, and other bicyclists.
  • Riding on the left side of the street, against traffic, is one of the most dangerous things a bicyclist can do. About 33% of all car-bicycle accidents involved wrong way bicycle riders and most occur at intersections and involve turning or crossing motorists. By riding against traffic, bicyclists approach intersections and driveways from a direction that is unexpected to motorists and out of their normal sight pattern. By riding against traffic, cyclists may not see traffic control devices that apply to them. Therefore, bicycles must travel in same direction as other traffic, not against it.
  • Bicycles must ride on the roadway, not the sidewalk. However, they must use bicycle lanes, when available.
  • Bicyclists should normally ride in a straight line as near to the right curb or edge of the roadway as is practical, but always a car-door’s length away from parked vehicles.
  • Bicyclists can legally move left from the right edge of the roadway to turn left, pass a parked or moving vehicle or bicycle, and to avoid hitting animals, debris, or other road hazards. Bicyclists may also ride near the left curb or edge of the roadway on one-way streets.
  • Bicyclists may ride side-by-side (two abreast) on roadways, but they must ride single file when being overtaken by other vehicles.
  • Bicyclists may only travel more than two abreast on a shoulder, bike lane or bike path intended for bike use if there is sufficient space. However, they must be in single file when passing vehicles, pedestrians, or other bicyclists.
  • The purpose of a bike lane is to provide a protected area for bicyclists so as to reduce the probability of accidents between motor vehicles and bicycles. A bicycle lane is marked by a solid white line along either side of the street that is at least 4 feet from curb. This line will usually be a broken line near corners of intersections. The words BIKE LANE are painted in white on the pavement at various locations in this lane.
  • Bicyclists are required to use bicycle lanes, when they are present on a roadway. However, they may exit these lanes to pass, make turns, or avoid a collision. Bicyclists should be especially alert at intersections.
  • Most of the accidents involving bicyclists that occur at intersections are due to the motorist’s failure to see and yield to cyclists. Be alert for motorists pulling out, crossing, turning left or turning right in front of you. Bicyclists must obey all traffic signals and signs.
  • Bicyclists make left and right hand turns in the same way that drivers do, using the same turn lanes as other traffic.
  • Bicyclists may make left turns as either motorists or pedestrians do. To make a pedestrian left turn, the bicyclist should continue straight across the intersecting road, obey the traffic signals, turn left at the corner, and proceed as usual.
  • Bicyclists may also dismount and walk in the crosswalks of the two intersecting roads.
  • Hand signals for turns are the same for bicyclists as for vehicles, except a right turn signal may be given by extending right arm straight out. Bicyclists must use hand signals before they change lanes, turn, or stop. Bicyclists are permitted to signal a right-hand turn by extending their right arm horizontally or extending their left arm bent upward at the elbow. A left hand turn is to be indicated by extending one’s left arm out horizontally. A stop is indicated by extending the left hand down. Bicycles must stop before exiting driveways.
  • Bicycle-vehicle accidents often happen when the bicyclist doesn’t stop at the end of the driveway to look for cars or when they are crossing a driveway on a sidewalk and a vehicle pulls in front of them. It is illegal to ride a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Bicyclists must submit to a test of the BAC level. Bicyclists can be fined up to $250.
  • Bicycles are required to have front and rear lights and reflectors when ridden at night.
  • Persons under 18 years of age are required to wear approved safety helmets whenever they are riding a bicycle (or as a passenger on one) on a street, bikeway, or other public path or trail.
  • You can be cited for exceeding the speed limit or riding faster than is safe for conditions on a bicycle.
  • Bicyclists must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles, pedestrians, and approaching vehicles.
  • It is illegal for a bicyclist to operate on the highway wearing more than one earphone attached to a radio tape player or other audio device.
  • Bicyclists should be careful to look and listen for hazards. It is important to be totally alert to traffic. Watch out for opening car doors and for cars pulling into the roadway. Avoid objects on the pavement that may cause you to lose control of your bicycle.
  • Bicyclists can prevent accidents by maximizing their visibility by wearing bright-colored clothing, by maintaining proper roadway position, and by establishing eye contact with motorists. Bicyclists should watch for cars pulling out of streets and driveways. They should make eye contact with drivers and assume they don’t see them until they are sure they do. Drivers may not see bicyclists when the sun is in their eyes.
  • Bicyclists should scan the road around them. They should keep their eyes roving constantly for cars, people, sand and gravel, grates, and so forth. They should learn to look back over their shoulder without losing their balance or swerving. Bicyclists should be careful to avoid road hazards. They should watch out for parallel-slat sewer/storm drain grates, slippery manhole covers, oily pavement, grates, sand, and gravel. They should cross railroad tracks carefully at right angles. To get better control as they move across bumps and other hazards, they should stand up on their pedals.
  • Report poor road conditions and pot holes to the city or county in which they occur.
  • Bicyclists should keep both hands ready to break at all times. They may not stop in time if they brake one-handed. They should allow extra distance for stopping in the rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet.
  • Bicyclists should watch for chasing dogs. They should try to ignore them, or try a firm, loud “NO”. If the dog doesn’t stop, they should dismount with their bike between them and the dog. Dogs are attracted by the spinning of wheels and feet.
  • Bicyclists are not out of place on the roadway— they are part of the normal traffic flow and share the road with other drivers. It is up to bicyclists and motorists to treat each other with care and respect. Strict adherence to the law and common courtesy are the foundation for this respect.
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5 Responses to On the beat with the CHP

  1. Michael Lewis says:

    Now that you’ve managed to scare the beejeesus out of all incipient bicycle riders, how about publishing a similar list of rules for motor vehicle operators?

    The correct wording of the law is “Bicyclists should ride as near to the right curb or edge of the roadway as is practicable,” not “practical.” Look it up. These are two different words with completely different meanings.

  2. Tom Cassera says:

    I wish the cyclist a speedy recovery, and hope she will be able to resume cycling as soon as possible.

  3. Dear Mr. Lewis, I had planned to publish the list of rules and suggestions for drivers and their interaction with cyclists in a future column, as I have some more cycling related content up my sleeve. So, please, stay tuned. To include that list in yesterday’s blog would have made it way too long and I didn’t want to overwhlem my readers. By the way, the link provided in the blog had the informaiton you request and more. Also, the list I published was directly from the Web link, unedited except that I didn’t include the vehicle code sections and California Driver Handlbook pages the information was taken from. Thanks always for your readership and comments.

  4. MeLinda says:








  5. Michael Lewis says:

    The California Driver Handbook is replete with errors and typos. For instance, it misquotes California Vehicle Code in this important instance: “Practical” does not mean the same thing as “practicable.”

    California Vehicle Code
    Division 11, Chapter 1, Article 4

    Operation on Roadway

    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:

    I seriously doubt that the editors of the California Driver Handbook really want bicyclists to do this:
    “Bicyclists should keep both hands ready to break at all times.”

    Finally, the California Driver Handbook repeats the oft-repeated and still fallacious statistic: “87% of bicyclists in [insert state name here] who die in an accident were not wearing a safety helmet.” This is a meaningless statistic, in that there is no correlation between the claimed bicyclists’ deaths and head injuries that would have been prevented by the wearing of a bike helmet. This statistic was in fact promulgated by a bicycle product manufacturing group, “The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute” and is not based on any know statistical study. Study of bicycling injury statistics from around the clear clearly demonstrate that bicycle helmets do not prevent head injuries and may, in some circumstances, increase head injuries.

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