Tag Archive for California Vehicle Code

Bike law change #6: Require that bike lanes be maintained in their original condition

This is the other side of the bike lane problem. So many times we’ve seen roadwork done on a bike lane — maybe they have to dig it up to fix some underground problem buried beneath the roadway, or it could be something to accommodate construction on the side of the road. Or maybe it’s just a city crew fixing a pothole or crack in the road.

Then once the work is done and the lane is patched, it’s usually in worse condition — often much worse — than it was before the work started. The crews seldom take the care necessary to smooth their patchwork and level the road surface, resulting in uneven ridges or dips in the roadway. It may not seem like a significant problem, and it’s one that most drivers wouldn’t even notice if they happened to roll over it. But for a bicyclist, those seemingly minor imperfections can make for a jarring, and potentially dangerous, ride.

The solution is simple. Just require that anytime roadwork is done on a designated bike path, bike lane or bike route, the road surface must be returned to it’s original — or better — condition. Just take a few extra minutes to smooth out the patches, and fill up the dips. Honestly, is that so hard?

 

Will responds to the letter writer who complained about all those damned high-speed bikes interfering with her ability to walk on the Chandler Bikeway. Yeah, what’s wrong with that picture? Streetsblog reports that Metro is reversing their policy and making room for bikes on their trains. Ciclovia comes to Miami and El Paso; I’d like to report that L.A. is sponsoring its first car-free event, but Hell hasn’t frozen over yet. A 73 year-old woman in upstate New York was killed when a truck entered the intersection and struck her bike; no tickets were issued. Why am I not surprised? And finally, Colorado Springs riders try off-road racing on their Barbie bikes.

Bike law change #5: Prohibit unnecessary blocking of bike lanes

Here’s one of my pet peeves: You’re riding in the bike lane along a busy street, when suddenly up ahead there’s a film crew with their trucks parked on the side of the road (this is L.A., after all). And even though none of the trucks extend into it, they put up safety cones to block the bike lane, forcing riders to take a lane — and risk their own safety — for no reason other than their own convenience.

Or maybe it’s a delivery truck double-parked in the bike lane. Or some utility workers — like the ones I encountered in Santa Monica this morning — that for some inexplicable reason needed to pile the dirt from the hole they were digging in the bike lane, rather than the parking space in front of their truck. But at least they put up a “Share the Road” sign before forcing me out into the traffic lane.

So stop it, already. Make it a clear violation of the law to block any bike lane or designated bike route unless absolutely necessary, and then only as long as necessary. Because those few feet of asphalt between the two painted lines exist for our safety, not their convenience.

 

Bike Girl gets stood up by her councilperson — perhaps he has a jealous spouse/significant other. Santa Clarita was awarded a grant to create new bike lanes and routes; nice to know someone around here is getting them. A writer in the Burbank Leader complains about speeding bicycles when she’s trying to walk in the bikeway, and about the riders’ “sense of ownership” regarding the bike lanes. She’s got a point; I have the same complaint about all those damn cars on the freeway.

Bike law change #4: Clarify the law allowing drivers to leave their lane to pass a bike

As a driver, I was taught to give riders plenty of clearance when passing, even if that meant briefly going into the other lane or crossing the yellow line. And I’ve always understood that the law not only allowed that, but actually encouraged it.

But I’ve noticed that while many L.A. drivers do just that, others are reluctant to pass a cyclist if it means even putting their left wheels on the divider line, let alone actually crossing it. Instead, they wait behind the rider, becoming angrier and more impatient with every passing moment. Or they zoom past at the first opportunity, whether or not there’s room — let alone if it’s actually safe.

So let’s clarify the law, so that every driver knows it’s okay to cross into the other lane or briefly cross the center line in order to pass a cyclist, as long as it can be done safely and there are no other vehicles in the way.

Bike law change #3: Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that cyclists and drivers sometimes try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. And when that happens, the driver usually blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider — and too often, gets away with it.

However, the law requires that drivers be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists that are visible on the road around them.

There are situations where riders can be hidden behind another vehicle, of course, or riding where they shouldn’t be, like in the driver’s blind spot or on the wrong side of the road. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason why an alert driver shouldn’t be able to see any cyclist who might be sharing the road with them. And if you can see the driver, he or she should certainly be able to see you.

So let’s put the responsibility exactly where it belongs, and prohibit any use of the “I just didn’t see him” excuse, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t possible to see the rider under the existing conditions.

Bike law change #3: Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that cyclists and drivers sometimes try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. And when that happens, the driver usually blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider — and too often, gets away with it.

However, the law requires that drivers be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists that are visible on the road around them.

There are situations where riders can be hidden behind another vehicle, of course, or riding where they shouldn’t be, like in the driver’s blind spot or on the wrong side of the road. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason why an alert driver shouldn’t be able to see any cyclist who might be sharing the road with them. And if you can see the driver, he or she should certainly be able to see you.

So let’s put the responsibility exactly where it belongs, and prohibit any use of the “I just didn’t see him” excuse, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t possible to see the rider under the existing conditions.

Bike law change #3: Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that cyclists and drivers sometimes try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. And when that happens, the driver usually blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider — and too often, gets away with it.

However, the law requires that drivers be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists that are visible on the road around them.

There are situations where riders can be hidden behind another vehicle, of course, or riding where they shouldn’t be, like in the driver’s blind spot or on the wrong side of the road. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason why an alert driver shouldn’t be able to see any cyclist who might be sharing the road with them. And if you can see the driver, he or she should certainly be able to see you.

So let’s put the responsibility exactly where it belongs, and prohibit any use of the “I just didn’t see him” excuse, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t possible to see the rider under the existing conditions.

Bike law change #2: Prohibit turning into the path of an oncoming cyclist

One of the most dangerous situations any rider faces is when a driver passes on the left, then makes an immediate right turn. Or when a driver tries to make a left turn directly in front of an oncoming rider.

Most of the time they get away with it. And sometimes they don’t, resulting in a serious, often fatal, accident in which the rider smashes into the side of the turning vehicle.

The problem is that drivers often underestimate the speed of the bike, and think they’ve got time to complete the turn. Or they just drive too aggressively, and assume they have the skill to pull off an exceptionally risky move — or want to send a message by forcing the cyclist to panic stop in order to avoid them.

The only way to stop it, and protect the safety of cyclists, is to ban it entirely — and require that drivers wait until any oncoming rider passes before making their turn, whether right or left.

 

Bicycle Fixation observes we’re getting closer to genuine critical mass (lower case). The Utne Reader discovers conservative cyclists aren’t a myth after all, while conservative #1 plans to open the way for mountain bikes in the national parks. Now if he’d just restore their funding before he makes his ungraceful exit in January.

Bike law change #1: Require drivers to maintain a minimum passing distance of three feet

As it now stand, the law only requires that drivers pass a bicycle on the left, and maintain a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle.

But what does that mean in the real world? To some drivers, that means giving a cyclist as wide a berth as possible — for which we are eternally grateful.

Other drivers interpret that as any distance which allows them to pass a bike without actually hitting it. But they may not realize that getting caught in the slipstream of their vehicle can make us lose balance and possibly fall. Or that coming too close makes us instinctively swerve to the right, even if that means running off the roadway or into parked cars. And it’s always possible for a driver to misjudge the distance and actually sideswipe a rider.

So let’s take the guessing out it, and require a minimum of three feet distance when passing a bicycle. And make it clear that drivers are allowed to briefly cross lane or center dividers to pass safely.

The nail that stands out, pt. 2

 

Feel free to copy and use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

After I put yesterday’s post online, I went out for a nice, long ride down the coast to Hermosa Beach, enjoying the ride, the sunshine and the bikinis. And those wearing them, of course.

But then, as I was nearing my home, I started kicking myself — mentally anyway; doing it physically would be kind of difficult with my feet locked into my pedals. And after 46 miles on the bike, I’m not sure I would have had the energy, anyway.

Because it occurred to me that in my response to Mr. Rowe’s letter to Rupert Murdoch’s latest acquisition, I failed to address a key point. Consider the penultimate line of his screed:

“…Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions….”

It’s a variation on the same old canard you’ll find on virtually any message board or letters column discussing cycling. Sooner or later, someone will suggest that all cyclists should a) have to study and pass a test, b) have a license, such as a driver’s license, c) have license plates, as Mr. Rowe suggests, and/or d) carry liability insurance.

The catch is, we already do.

You see, in today’s auto-centric society, most cyclists are also drivers. In fact, while I’m sure there must be some, I don’t personally know of a single cyclist over the age of 16 who does not have a driver’s license.

Which means that we have studied the rules of the road, so there is no excuse for any bicyclist not knowing the rules of the road — just as there is no excuse for any driver being unfamiliar with the traffic laws and regulations, including laws regarding cyclists’ right to the road.

We can also be ticketed, just like the operator of any other vehicle — legitimately or not. And while I have no personal knowledge of the subject, I would assume that any ticket received while cycling can result in points against the recipient’s driver’s license, under the provisions of section 21200 of the California Vehicle Code, just as they would for a driver who receives a similar citation.

And as I discovered when I was struck by a car several years ago, car insurance in this state covers the driver, not the vehicle — which means that the driver is covered when operating his or her car, or any other vehicle. Including a bicycle.

In fact, State Farm paid my entire medical bill under the uninsured driver section of my policy. And as my agent explained at the time, any other section of my policy — including liability coverage — would be equally valid, whether I was in my car, driving someone else’s car, or on my bike.

So the problem isn’t one of licensing or liability coverage. It’s just that some cyclists, like some drivers, are jerks. In fact, I’m convinced that people ride their bikes the same way they drive. If someone is a safe driver, he or she will undoubtedly be a safe cyclist, while those who drive like jerks will undoubtedly ride the same way. Just like drivers, they usually get away with it simply because there’s seldom anyone around to enforce the law.

And here in L.A., the cops usually have more important things to do than worry about whether a cyclist blew through a stop sign.

 

Will uses my new favorite word in an attempt to track down the indignorant Mr. Rowe, and sacrifices a chunk of flesh to a man-eating chainring. Next weekend’s Brentwood Gand Prix will reward competitors with a special prize for the Sex and the City crowdA lone cyclist takes to the freeway; as Richard Pryor would say, that _______’s crazy!  A town in Arkansas weighs becoming a LAB-approved bike friendly city. If only our own local cared that much; we’re still waiting for action on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

 

The nail that stands out

I used to work with this one guy, a third-generation Japanese American.

Nice guy. And one day when we were talking, he mentioned a traditional Japanese expression that says it’s the nail that stands out that gets pounded down.

I’ve often thought about that saying, because it so often seems to be true, even in a this country like this that supposedly prizes individuality. It’s the exceptions, the ones who stand out from all the rest, who often draw the harshest response, whether you’re talking about the campus geek in junior high, the neighborhood eccentric or leaders like Dr. King or Bobby Kennedy.

You can even see it now, when a politician can be criticized, not for his policies, but for his eloquence and ability to inspire others.

And then there’s the other side of that same coin, where someone tries to demonize some group, in order to justify their own negatives attitudes.

Like cyclists, for instance.

Because some people look at those exceptions — such as cyclists who regularly ignore the law and flaunt both safety and common sense — and somehow assume that all riders are like that. And decide that since that one nail is loose, we all need to be pounded down.

It’s not true, of course. Any more than it’s true that all (insert racist, sexist, ethnic and/or religious slur of your choice here) are alike.

It’s also demonstrably false. Just stand next to a busy street intersection along any popular bike route. You won’t have to watch very long to see that many, if not most of us, stop for red lights and try to stay out of the way of the way of traffic as much as possible.

But these people only seem to see the ones who don’t stop, or take a lane for reasons they can’t, or perhaps don’t want to, comprehend. So they automatically reach for their hammers to pound down every nail, rather than the few that stand out.

Take this recent letter from Graham A. Rowe in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, for instance, in response to their earlier article about the cycling the mean streets of L.A. (I also notice they didn’t print Will Campbell’s response to the article.):

“Bicycle riders believe that they should enjoy all the benefits of both car drivers and pedestrians. They choose to ride both with and against traffic. They obey no traffic signs, never stop at red lights or stop signs. At a red light they decide to become a pedestrian and simply ride across the crossing. They ride on the sidewalk at danger to pedestrians. Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions. Maybe then they would be more careful and get more respect.”

Yes, that’s exactly what we all believe, posts like this from Gary Rides Bikes and yours truly notwithstanding. Never mind that most cyclists don’t do those things, or that riding on the sidewalk is legal in Los Angeles.

You’ll note that he ends by saying that we’ll get more respect when we’re more careful. Despite the fact that drivers are required by law to grant us that respect, just as they would any other vehicle. And despite the fact that the consequences of failing to grant that respect are far greater for us than they are for the driver.

In other words, he’s saying that we’re responsible for the fact that some people refuse to drive safely, and legally, around us. Of course, not everyone who fails to share the road does so out of spite. Some are just unaware of the law, or refuse to believe it when they’re told. And some are just jerks, not unlike some cyclists.

I’ve written about it before, notably here and here, in response to some letters that were recently published in the L.A. Times. And I’m going to keep writing about it.

Because frankly, I’m tired of people trying to pound me down for something I didn’t do.

Great article from the U.K. about whether helmets are fashionable for Parisians and Prime Ministers. It also discusses a Dutch idea that assumes the driver is automatically responsible in any collision between a car and a bike. One lesson experienced cyclists learn is to make eye contact with opposing drivers. Cyclists protest unfair tickets in Santa Monica by crossing the street — repeatedly. The Times’ Bottleneck Blog considers what L.A. could be like with a little more foresight from out elected leaders. And finally, both Seattle and supposedly bike-unfriendly New York test the radical concept of turning a few streets over to cyclists and pedestrians.

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