Dear Street Smarts,
If I am driving on a street that has two lanes each direction plus a bike lane in either direction. Let's say that I am in the right hand lane and I need to make a right hand turn. There is a bicyclist some two or three car lengths behind me and I have signaled for the turn. Who has the right of way in a case like this? I am asking because I have seen several times where bicyclists were almost hit because they tried to pass a car that was making a legal turn with signals visible. Thanks in advance.
Tom Abbott, Facebook
If I were the driver, I would try to gauge how fast the cyclist is traveling and whether I can safely make the turn before attempting it. If the cyclist was traveling at a good clip, I would signal, slow down by taking my foot off the accelerator, let him or her pass me, merge into the bike lane behind the rider and make my turn. If the cyclist was meandering along, I'd signal, merge into the bike lane and make my turn.
“When in doubt give the bicyclist the right of way,” said Sgt. Matt Eller, traffic lead for the Capitola Police Department. “The vehicle code states that bicyclist must obey the same rules of the road as vehicles, however the bicyclist has the right of way.”
However, motorists should know that it is OK for them to drive no more than 200 feet in the bike lane to prepare for and complete a right turn, said Lt. John Hohmann of the Scotts Valley Police Department, while citing California Vehicle Code section 21209
“The driver is basically establishing the right of way and notifies the bicyclist of his intention to turn along with his turn signal of course,” he said. “Now mind you this takes some consideration on the part of the driver with respect to the distance and speed of the bicyclist. Relay patience and courtesy.”
Section 21209 states that drivers “shall not” travel in the bike lane except when they are parking where doing so is permitted, to enter or leave the road and to prepare for a turn within the distance of 200 feet from the intersection.
May is Bike Safety Month
Speaking of cycling, May is National Bicycle Safety Month. The designation comes as the weather warms up and more people choose to ride than drive.
The California Office of Traffic Safety
is asking drivers and cyclists to be extra safe on the road not only this month but every month.
Cycling safety awareness is especially necessary for and around child riders. Save for automobiles, bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product, the agency reported. During the summer, child bicycling deaths can increase 45 percent above the average numbers any other month.
Bike safety tips
- Wear a helmet every time you and your children ride.
- Helmets fit properly when they sit on the top of the head in a level position and don't rock backward, forward or to the side. Helmet straps must be buckled but not to tight.
- Make sure your bike is the right size to fit you. Don't buy a bike that your child will grow into. When sitting on your bike, your feet should be able to touch the ground – likewise for your child and his or her bike.
- Make sure your bike is in working order – reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
- Follow all road laws, be visible and predictable, and stay focused and alert.
- As for drivers, don't crowd cyclists and keep an eye for other road users, including motorcycles and pedestrians.