Ride Smart: Know the Law

Ride Smart: Know the Laws!

learning to rideMost of us learned how to ride a bike before we learned how to drive. It was about balance and steering and fun, which was great for the schoolyard but not so good for riding the streets. Yet we turn kids lose on the streets and (even worse) the sidewalks every day even as they’re unprepared for the car emerging suddenly from the alley or the driver running a stop sign.

And as drivers, we adults are not generally conditioned to see the road from a rider’s perspective. We’re generally under-schooled in road rules yet we’re responsible for safely co-existing with  more vulnerable road users.

Consequently riders have to be more aware. Not only that but also more cognizant of the law because specific laws apply to us when we ride. Read on for a brief overview of the State of California laws that apply, and then go to Local Ordinances Affecting Cyclists to understand how local laws affect us.

How Laws Regulate Cycling

Vehicle code bookThe California Vehicle Code (CVC) provides a legal framework for regulating travel on public roads. A cyclist must hew to most of the laws that regulate motoring (the ‘rules of the road’) and then a few more under the CVC’s Section 21200-21212. It is worth familiarizing yourself with the code. Let’s summarize the basics:

  • Ride on the street with traffic flow and follow the law as any motorist would. That means stopping at all stop signs and obeying traffic control devices.
  • Keep to the right of the roadway when practicable, which means you can pass on the left, drift to the left when there’s a right-turn lane, or maneuver as necessary to avoid dangerous conditions. If your lane is not wide enough to share with a bus, say, don’t share it; ride confidently nearer to the center.
  • Use hand signals to indicate your turns because you can’t expect motorists to anticipate your next move. Always execute your left turns from the left turn pocket (if available) or from a commanding position in the leftmost lane. Alternately, cross the intersection and wait for the crossing signal.
  • Ride attentively, predictably, and responsibly (no dual earbuds on the road – it’s against the law!).

Again, ride to the right where practicable. That does not mean wherever possible. Don’t ride in the gutter or otherwise hug the curb, especially if passing traffic poses a hazard. And if you’re cited for riding in the middle of the lane when it’s a) not wide enough to share and/or b) you feel that you couldn’t safely ride to the right, refer the judge to this section of the state law:

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 except under any of the following situations: (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway. (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/ accessed 9/3/2010 (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. (CVC Sec. 21202)

To be clear, you’re required to yield the lane by riding to the right only when a reasonable person would find it safe to do so, or if the lane accommodates both you as a rider and large vehicles (trucks and buses).

A couple of additional pointers when riding our busy streets:

  • Hold to a straight line where possible (for example when passing parked cars don’t weave to the curb and back into traffic)
  • Refrain from sidewalk riding in any jurisdiction unless safety absolutely demands it
  • Wherever you ride, be extra careful at potential conflict points like driveways, shop doors and crosswalks
  • Children must wear a helmet that meets state safety standards but adults are not required
  • At all costs avoid physical conflict with motorists: instead get their plate and report it to police (and to the cycling community).

That last point is important: if you are stopped and cited for any reason, follow the suggestions of bicycle attorney Bob Mionske as you gracefully accept your citation to fight on another day in court. If you’re unfortunately involved in a collision, why Bob’s got advice for that too.

State Motor Vehicle Code Excerpts

A “bicycle path crossing” is either of the following: (1) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of a bike path at intersections …[or] (2) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for bicycle crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

— California Vehicle Code Sec. 231.6

[I]t is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug…A conviction of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars.

— CVC Sec. 21200.5

No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake…[or] equipped with handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his hands above the level of his shoulders [or] that is of a size that prevents the operator from safely stopping the bicycle [and] supporting it in an upright position….

— CVC Sec. 21201

A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, sidewalk, or a bikeway shall be equipped with a lamp emitting a white light that illuminates the [way] in front of the bicyclist; a red reflector visible from 500 feet; a white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle; and reflectors on each side forward & rear of the center of the bicycle…

— CVC Sec. 21201

Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right- hand curb or edge of the roadway except (1) When overtaking and passing; (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection, private road, or driveway; (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe to continue; or (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

— CVC Sec. 21202

Any person operating a bicycle…shall ride as close as practicable to the right- hand curb or edge of the roadway except…[w]hen reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes)… A “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

— CVC Sec. 21202

Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

— CVC Sec. 21202

A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto…If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place…

— CVC Sec. 2014

No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the operator from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.

— CVC Sec. 2105

Any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane [When] overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian…and passing cannot be done safely within the lane; When preparing for a left turn; When reasonably necessary to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions; When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

— CVC Sec. 21207

No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until the movement 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.

— CVC Sec. 21207

No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway except to park where parking is permitted, to enter or leave the roadway, or to prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.

— CVC Sec. 21209

No person shall leave a bicycle lying on its side on any sidewalk, or shall park a bicycle on a sidewalk in any other position, so that there is not an adequate path for pedestrian traffic. Local authorities may, by ordinance or resolution, prohibit bicycle parking in designated areas of the public highway, provided that appropriate signs are erected.

— CVC Sec. 21210

A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle…nor ride upon a bicycle or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets [ASTM or CPSC] standards. The parent or legal guardian having control or custody…shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for the amount of the fine…

— CVC Sec. 21212

A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle…nor ride upon a bicycle or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets [ASTM or CPSC] standards.

— CVC Sec. 21212

A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle…unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet… Any charge under this subdivision shall be dismissed when the person charged alleges in court, under oath, that the charge against the person is the first charge…under this subdivision

— CVC Sec. 21212

Read more about the city laws that affect us on our Local Ordinances Affecting Cyclists page. And refer to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalitions helpful summary of the laws with relevant state statutes linked. Have a look at their handy LACBC Road Rules pocket guide [pdf]. Join the LACBC to get your paper copy!

Recent Posts

NIMBYs Whiffed on Bike Lanes But Killed the Dog Park

Roxbury dog park visualization

This year northside Beverly Hills residents swung for the fences but whiffed when they tried to kill bicycle lanes for North Santa Monica (Council kept lanes on the table). But two years ago, the southwest NIMBYs scored a base by killing off a preliminary proposal for an off-leash dog run for Roxbury Park. And it took only a bunt: just five dog park opponents persuaded City Council to nix the whole idea… even though it came recommended by staff, was endorsed unanimously by the parks commission and was supported by local dog-keepers.

The Backstory

The city had been looking to create a dog park for years. Dogs need outdoor recreation, of course, and every morning dogs of all stripes make the trek to one or another city park. But no Beverly Hills park is a place to run a dog: like every inch of the city, our parks are no-go for off-leash activity; a substantial fine awaits those who flout the law. But an off-leash dog area would give our furry friends a place to roam.

Nearby cities already provide dog parks. Moreover, they provide this amenity for Beverly Hills residents too. Popular dog park destinations for our pooches include Brentwood, Culver City, West Hollywood, and Rancho Park. But none is within walking distance. That makes a dog park a no-brainer, right? City Council even elevated the dog park search to an ‘A’ level priority this year:

City Council dog park priority ABut back in 2012 parks staff had already evaluated local options and recommended a dog park for Roxbury. It is the best choice of the options, staff said. Conveniently, the park’s unused croquet court (below) is not close to any park-adjacent apartments and is buffered from homes to the north by Olympic Boulevard. And like the adjacent unused putting green, this forlorn field cries out for re-purposing.

Roxbury croquet court todayNext, the Recreation and Parks Commission evaluated the Roxbury Park option and the commissioners unanimously agreed. The commission then sent it on to City Council.

But what do dog-keepers think about the idea? Generally, residents support creating an off-leash area by a 4:1 margin, but is Roxbury the right place? When staff held a meeting at Roxbury Park to present it, dog park supporters outnumbered opponents. But when the proposal came back to Council, however, some opponents spoke against it. The theme: Hey, we love dogs but don’t put a dog park in my backyard. Classic NIMBY!

Yet NIMBYs adhered to the usual playbook. They raised parking, public safety, noise and property values concerns. One homeowner worried about new people making our park “a destination.” That would take up precious parking spaces and, as another speaker cautioned, tax our limited police patrols.

Ken Goldman, Southwest Homeowners Association president, said he polled his association and “100% of responses were opposed.” Beverly/Roxbury Homeowners Association president Steve Dahlerbruch chimed in. “We polled our homeowners association and we got the overwhelming response, ‘We don’t want it in our area.'” For good measure Mr. Dahlerbruch added, “I live on Olympic and every day dog owners leave (crap) on my lawn.”

That’s the nimby cry: “We don’t want it in our area.” “Not in my backyard.” And of course the property values argument: “I want to preserve the residential nature of this community,” said homeowner Rochelle Ginsburg. “I will protect what I value.” How many such speakers did it take to put the kibosh on the Roxbury dog park idea? Just five.

But this area of the park is in nobody’s backyard. Nevertheless, after hearing from them our City Council simply nixed the proposal. And ever since, this unused croquet court has withered on the vine (n fact, the entire northern tier of this park is typically underused except by dog walkers).

For just twenty-thousand bucks we could have a dog park (according to staff estimates). Let’s put that in perspective: West Hollywood’s City Council is committed to building its second dog park and is poised to budget $750k for it as part of the West Hollywood Park phase II renovation.

In the meanwhile here in Beverly Hills, the a dog park  option – at a site located in the industrial section of the city, near Maple Drive – inches forward. But slowly: City Council gave the OK to test the environmentally contaminated parcel last summer, but no report has yet come forward. (Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year, marking three-plus years of talking about a dog park.)
We ask you: would you rather take your dog out to play in a lovely park only a short walk from your home, or drive to run your pooch on an environmentally-remediated parcel to run your dog?

Friends of Roxbury Dog Park

In the weeks leading up to last weekend’s dog-friendly Woofstock event, a campaign coalesced to bring the Roxbury proposal back to City Council. Friends of Roxbury Park agree with staff and the Rec and Parks Commission that Roxbury is the best option for the city’s first dog park. But it need not be the only one: dogs need outdoor recreation whether they reside in the north, southwest or southeast part of the city. A few months ago, at a preliminary meeting for the redesign of La Cienega Park, we suggested the city include a dog area.

Roxbury dog park visualization

Roxbury Park’s croquet court repurposed as an off-leash dog area (illustration courtesy Friends of Roxbury Dog Park)

Letting just five NIMBYs nix a good idea like a dog park for Roxbury should feel like a thorn in the paw for every dog and dog-keeper. Just as we can’t let a few negative voices tank bike lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard, we shouldn’t let a few NIMBYs and homeowner association despots dictate the use of a city park either.

  1. Tracking Hazards and Collisions: Maps and More Maps! Comments Off
  2. Are You a ‘Team Player’? Traffic Commission Has Two Vacancies Comments Off
  3. Our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan: Will It Ever Be Updated? Comments Off
  4. Is a Mandatory Bike Helmet Law the Answer? Comments Off
  5. Beverly Hills OKs Bike-share Feasibility Study Comments Off
  6. File Under ‘Crap Facilities': Dangerous Crescent Dr. Sharrows [Updated] 3 Replies
  7. Beverly Hills Should Take the Foxx US DOT Challenge Comments Off
  8. TPC Commissioner Alan Gruschow Passes Comments Off
  9. Bike Share for Beverly Hills? Comments Off
  10. Recapping the Recappers: How Local Media Covered SM Blvd 1 Reply
  11. News Flash! City Council Keeps Bike Lanes on the Table 5 Replies
  12. LA Councilman’s Hostility Toward Complete Streets Sounds Familiar 14 Replies
  13. Passing Safely: It’s the Law! 1 Reply