On my daily rides around town, I’ve noticed in the last year a marked increase of people riding bikes. It’s nice to see so many people turning to the bicycle for quick trips rather than jumping in their cars. Choosing the bike is great exercise, cuts back on traffic, and doesn’t burn any gasoline. A rare triple-win! With the emergence of bike share programs , even those who may not own a bike can join the fun. This has also added many new riders to the roads. I’ve seen many of these new riders make some egregious violations of common sense as well as laws. With that being said new riders should be aware of California Bicycle Laws. So let’s rundown some of the basic rules of the road when it comes to riding a bike.
Rights and Responsibilities
First and foremost, bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as cars. That means riding on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic. Riding on the side walk may or may not be legal, depending on the city in question. I don’t recommend it, as pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. Bicycles are vehicles, and the sidewalk is for walking. Sometimes a situation dictates the use of the sidewalk. Utilizing the sidewalk as a bikeway should be seen as the exception, not the rule.
Stop Signs and Red Lights
Stopping at stop signs and red lights in mandatory. As tempting as it is to just rip through a stop sign or red light, it can infuriate a driver who has to sit through a light cycle. This makes all cyclist look bad, and we have a hard enough time out there without adding fuel to the bike v. car conflict. Besides poor form, disobeying stop signs and red lights is also incredibly dangerous. Everyday I witness a rider run a red light or stop sign without looking to see if the coast is clear. This completely baffles me, but all I can do is sit at the light and shake my head in disbelief.
On a road with a bike lane, a cyclist traveling less than the normal speed of traffic must use the bike lane. Any time a bicyclist is traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic, they also must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the road. When a bike is able to ride at the same speed as traffic, the cyclist may ride within the travel lane. Known as, “taking the lane,” cyclists have the right to take the lane, even when a bike lane is present when preparing for a left turn.
Be mindful of parked cars. While it is the cyclists responsibly to ride as far to the right as possible, one should also ride far enough away from parked vehicles to avoid being hit by an opening door. People tend to kick doors open without looking. To catch a door on a bike is a terrible experience. As someone who has caught a door to the chest, I don’t recommend it.
These are just a handful of the rules we cyclists need to abide to. The California Bicycle Coalition is a wonderful resource for cyclists. They have a page outlining all California Bicycle Laws. EB Cycling Law has the distinction of being the only law firm listed for San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties on the “crash help” page. Experienced riders as well as those new to the rules of the road to avoid citations and accidents. Stay safe out there, and as always, keep the rubber side down!