Bicycles and cars, again

In Monday's column, Street Smarts printed snippets form two letters received from bicycle riding readers who felt their lives were put into danger by drivers who didn't understand that there are times when cyclists may use a full traffic lane. Examples the readers provided included narrow roads where no bike lane exists, as well as on downhill portions of wider roads where bike lanes are present, but so too is debris or other hazards. Street Smarts contacted Officer Brad Sadek, spokesman for the Santa Cruz Area CHP office, to weigh in on the legalities of theses kinds of situations. "The vehicle code does not have any laws stating specifically 'Bicyclist must use bike lane,'” he said. “However, California Vehicle Code section 21202 (a) states that '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.'” Exceptions to this rule include when a cyclist is:
  • Overtaking and passing.
  • Preparing for a left turn.
  • Facing conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the edge, such as debris, vehicles, people and/or animals in the way, as well as substandard width lanes and road surface hazards.
Similarly, if a bike lane is present, vehicle code section 21208(a) addresses cyclists and bike lanes, saying bike riders may leave the lane when, other than the above reasons, when:
  • Approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
  • It “can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement.”
In regard to bicyclists impeding traffic flow, “both sections make statements regulating the impediment of traffic,” said Sadek. “ Most bicycles are not equipped with a factory installed speedometer to judge their speed. Some cyclist may use GPS based apps to judge their speed. However, those devices may not be engineered and calibrated to the same degree a motor vehicle’s speedometer is. A good rule of thumb is if a cyclist – or motorist, for that matter – is being repeatedly overtaken by traffic, or is creating a backup in their wake, chances are very good they are going slower than the “Normal speed of traffic,” and should move to the right to allow traffic to pass. “Everyone has a place to be, everyone has a family to make it home to, we all have to share the road. The safe use of California roadways is a group effort.”
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