What can motorcycles do and not do?

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I am wondering what all the current rules and laws are for motorcycles. I am constantly being passed on two-way streets by motorcycles in the bike lanes or on the left side, and in many cases when there is a double yellow. Plus, I have been passed on four- lane streets with motorcycles going between the moving cars. Also, when waiting for a light at an intersection, motorcycle riders will pass all the cars that are waiting and put themselves at the front on the line waiting for the light. I rode motorcycles a long time but maybe the rules have changed. Thanks, Stephen Hauskins, via email A: Let's take this one item at a time. First off, it is illegal for all vehicles, including motorcycles to cross over the double yellow line to pass a slower moving vehicle. According to the California Driver Handbook, "Two solid yellow lines mean no passing." The book says that drivers and riders should never drive to the left of these lines unless they are turning left at an intersection; turning into or out of a private road or driveway; in a carpool lane that has a designated entrance on the left; instructed to do so by construction or emergency crews. Drivers also are not allowed to use bike lanes to pass. As for sharing or splitting lanes, that practice is unsafe but not illegal. The Motorcycle Handbook tells riders that cars and motorcycles need a full lane of their own to operate safely. “Riding between rows of stopped or moving cars in the same lane can leave you vulnerable,” the book said. “A car could turn suddenly or change lanes, a door could open, or a hand could come out of a window. Discourage lane sharing by others. Keep a center position whenever drivers might be tempted to squeeze by you.” And in regard to whether it’s illegal for motorcyclists to cut in the front of the line at stop signs, that’s not illegal either, "as long as they do not violate California Vehicle Code 21453,"said Lt. John Hohmann of the Scotts Valley Police Department. That section defines a driver’s responsibilities at stop lights. It reads, in part, that “a driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown.” Read more on the subject of sharing the road with motorcycles online at http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/shr_slow_veh.htm.
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One Response to What can motorcycles do and not do?

  1. ted says:

    I must take issue with your citation from the DMV motorcycle book, and for that matter with the publication itself…

    One thying I learned in my three years as a motorcycle courier was that the oil from all of the cars ends up in the middle of the lane, so it is MUCH safer to operate your motorcycle on one side of the lane or the other.

    The other thing I learned is that the drivers of cars will try to squeeze by you no matter which part of the lane you occupy, and you must always be thinking about escape routes in case somebody does something stupid.

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