Cycling side-by-side

Every now and then, the debate about the legality of cyclists riding side by side on local streets and paths comes up. Cycling advocates say there is nothing in the California Vehicle Code that makes the practice illegal. But law enforcement officers say that's not necessarily true at all times. They cite vehicle code section 21202, which reads:
  • (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:
  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
  • (b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.
Officers tell Street Smarts, when the cyclists are going downhill or traveling on a flat surface, they can reach motor vehicle speeds of around 35-40 mph, so riding side-by-side may be permitted as long as traffic isn't being impeded. But when cyclists are moving slowly and are blocking motor vehicle traffic, they must ride single file along the right side of the road on two-way streets -- or the left side on one-way streets -- so faster moving traffic can pass. It is here that two other vehicle code sections can come into play with cyclist movements -- sections 21200 and 21208. Vehicle code section 21200 states in part that, "A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle." Meanwhile, 21208 reads:
  • (a)Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane under any of the following situations:
  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
  • (b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement.
Motor vehicles have a similar rule to follow under vehicle code section 21654, which requires slower traffic to keep right. Read more of the California Vehicle Code and bicycle laws here.
This entry was posted in bicycle, bicycle education, bike safety, California Vehicle Code, cycling, traffic laws, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cycling side-by-side

  1. Mschris37 says:

    I know that when I got my liscense to drive,u00a0 the rule is …on any 2 lane road you are, “NOT”u00a0 to hold up traffic ….u00a0 that was no more than 5 cars behind you , you vacate the road and then proceed.u00a0 Is that not on the books any more?u00a0 It should be, this is totally uncalled for.u00a0u00a0 We drive to work,businesses, we fight traffic all the time and then to get a nasty flip off by pleasure riders, riding side by side on a very narrow road,u00a0will make everyone furious.u00a0u00a0 I u00a0feel unless there is a descent bike lane, bikes should be barred from them.u00a0 I pay my taxes and have paidu00a0 for 75 years and they pay nothing but have a middle finger they love to give people.u00a0 Disrespectfulu00a0 and ignorant!

  2. nocklebeast says:

    I can see how the CVC could be interpreted to ban side-by-side cycling (because the cyclists on the left isn’t far enough to the right) when the cyclists are not moving as fast as normal speed of traffic AND none of the stay to the right exceptions are present nnnu00a0u00a0u00a0 When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.nu00a0u00a0u00a0 When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.nu00a0u00a0u00a0 When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a u201csubstandard width laneu201d is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.nu00a0u00a0u00a0 When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.nnnBut if the lane is too narrow for a motor vehicle to safely pass a single cyclist within the lane (but not so narrow it’s unsafe for two cyclists to share the lane side-by-side), then theu00a0 stay-to-the-right law can’t be interpreted as banning side-by-side cycling, because cyclists are not required to stay to the right in those circumstances.nnu00a0Let’s face it. A cyclist can’t go around the block without encountering one of the exceptions in CVC 21202 and CVC 21208.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Here are some great links:nnhttp://www.santacruzlive.com/streetsmarts/2011/05/12/cycling-side-by-side/comment-page-1/#comment-804nnSanta Cruz County Regional Transportation Commissionn http://sccrtc.org/services/bike/n * scroll down to ‘What Motorists Want Bicyclists to Know/What Cyclists Want Motorists to Know.’

  4. Mark Nockleby says:

    nnon the agenda in Encinitasnhttp://encinitas.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=25949&view=&showpdf=1 nnLook at the letter from Caltrans’ letter in exhibit 7: “There is no “single-file rule in the California Vehicle Code (CVC).”

Leave a Reply