Monday, April 20, 2009

Riding In Traffic

My cycling buddy Colin Bogart wrote a concise summary on the rights and responsibilities of road users in the News-Press today that is worth a read by motorists and cyclists alike.

While cyclists have the right to ride in the street, that right is conditional because cyclists usually travel at a speed that is slower than motorized traffic. Vehicle Code Section 21202 says that a cyclist must ride as far to the right as “practicable.” The word “practicable” is used intentionally and is quite important. A cyclist must ride as far to right as he/she can, but only to the point that he/she can do it safely. And riding to the right is also conditional. A cyclist can ride farther to the left in certain situations such as avoiding dangerous or bad road conditions, when passing another cyclist or vehicle moving in the same direction, when turning left, when approaching a right-turn-only lane (and the cyclist is going straight), or if the lane is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. This last condition is widely unknown among motorists and even many cyclists.

Lately I've done a fair amount of riding on the street with (terrified) newbies and one of the things I stress is that maintaining a consistent position towards the right side of a lane - but outside of the door zone! - is key to safety.  No weaving in and out of parked cars, no squeezing so far to the right that you end up in the gutter.  You need to be visible, predictable, considerate, and assertive. 

I'd like to add that on Saturday's Glendale history ride the motorists our (law-abiding) group encountered were for the most part very considerate in sharing the road and giving us space.


Kendyl Young said...

Thanks for the link, Scott. Good to know this stuff. I've been on the bad end of an aggressive and malicious bike rider (not to mention extremely rude)- and I will NEVER forget it. It makes it very hard to think kind and curtious thoughts toward bike riders on the street. However, I believe in the right of bike riders to share the road and I wish to do so in a safe manner. Just don't pound on my window and cuss at me, 'kay? (And, no, I didn't do anything even thoughtlessly. I got cut off by a huge pack of riders and all I did was through my hands up in frustration as I slowed waaaaaaaay down very quickly)

Scott said...

I'm sorry that happened to you Kendyl, bike riders as well as drivers can be rude and/or clueless. (And don't get me started on big stupid drunken group rides!) I think drivers and many cyclists are mostly confused as to how they should act around each other rather than overtly rude or aggressive. By riding assertively (but politely), I make life easier for drivers and myself by sending clear signals about what I'm doing and when it's okay to pass.

For instance, biking up Brand to work today, there were two moments where I "took the lane" for safety - once, because an extra long truck parked diagonally left no room for me at the right; and at another point to pass a bus partially blocking the lane with its hazard lights on. If I tried to squeeze by those obstacles and still left some room for cars on my left, it would be a stressful judgement call for them about whether they could pass me or not. Since I knew at those moments that there was NOT enough room for cars to pass me safely, I moved far to the center of the lane to let those behind me know that it was unsafe to pass me, and once the obstacle was cleared, I moved back to the right and waved the driver behind me past so they knew I was aware that they were waiting for me.

Of course, having more bike lanes around town would go a long way towards minimizing traffic conflicts and make life easier for bike riders, particularly those who are less experienced on the road and intimidated by riding in traffic.

Kendyl Young said...

I love the bike lines they installed on Glenoaks Blvd. I am willing to admit that, although I still get really angry when I think of that horrible bike rider, I am extra aware when I see bikes on the road today. I also started asking what my responsibility/right of way was. Not only was it eye opening, but, as you said, I think we are all pretty clueless on how to coexist peacefully.

With the help of media and bloggers like you, I hope we can make the urban landscape more rider friendly- wouldn't that be a great EarthDay gift?

philpalm said...

I am very cautious on the bike lanes on Glenoaks. Fortunately you don't have to worry about head on traffic but idiots that don't notice you when they turn right.

Car doors is always a worry too but I should start counting the number of bicyclist on a given day, so people will know bicyclist traffic is/or is not increasing now that there is a bike lane.