Today is Bike to Work Day in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a proud sponsor of the Marin, San Francisco, and East Bay bicycle coalitions, I want to take a moment to remind everyone about bicycle laws and the rights and responsibilities of car drivers and bicyclists on our roadways.
Bike lanes are just that: lanes designed for bikes. Many are painted with a solid white line; some are green with a solid white boundary. California Vehicle Code Section 21209 restricts motor vehicles from driving in a bike lane except to: a) park where permitted, b) enter or leave the roadway or c) to prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from an intersection.
If there is a green box painted in the roadway – also known as a bike box – at an intersection and there is red light for that direction of travel, that space is reserved for bikes to collect and wait for the light to change. Cars may not occupy that space while waiting for a signal change and must allow bikes to safely proceed through the intersection. Right turns on red are prohibited.
Vehicle Code Section 22100 requires vehicle drivers approaching and making a right-hand turn to do so as close as practicable to the right-hand curb edge. This is to prevent what we often see as the tragic circumstances of cutting off, or worse, driving over a bicyclist who is trying to comport with Vehicle Code Section 21202, which requires cyclists traveling at a speed slower than traffic to ride as close as possible to the right hand edge of the road (unless it is a one-way street; then it is as close to the left hand side of the road).
Vehicle Code Section 21208 states that bicycles traveling at a speed slower than traffic must ride in the bike lane unless they are overtaking another bicyclist, vehicle or pedestrian and if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely in the lane, when preparing for a left turn or into a private driveway, to avoid debris, potholes or other road hazards, or approaching a place where a right hand turn is authorized.
For example, a bicyclist approaching a double-parked car may move out of the bike lane that is blocked and if a cyclist sees activity that leads them to believe they may get “doored” they may move to the left – even if it carries them outside of the bike lane – to safely pass the hazard. Bicyclists must provide a proper hand signal if any other bike or vehicle might be affected by the movement.
Although cyclists are required to ride as close as practical to the right side of the road, that is when they are riding slower than the normal flow of traffic. A bike, traveling at or above the posted speed, may “occupy the lane” and even at speeds lower than the traffic a bike may “take the lane” so that they can proceed safely.
If two bicyclists are traveling at the speed of traffic, there is nothing in California law that prohibits them from riding abreast of each other.
Vehicle Code Section 21202 requires bikes to ride with the flow of traffic. If you need to go down a one way street against the flow, get off and walk the bike on the sidewalk until you get to a place where you can resume riding with the flow.
And remember, since 2014, Vehicle Code 21760 required drivers to give cyclists their space – three feet of it – when riding abreast or passing.
Happy Bike to Work Day! Stop by our San Francisco office at 1438 Market Street for a free reflective ankle strap to keep your pants out of the sprocket and to keep yourself visible and safe.