Maybe you don’t have to signal your turns after all.
Turns out drivers don’t.
Like many Californians, I have long labored under the assumption that all road users — motorists and bicyclists alike — are required to signal every turn or lane change.
Something many, if not most, fail to do.
After all, there’s no point in tipping off total strangers about where you’re headed.
Still, it’s not uncommon for bike riders to be ticketed for failing to stick an arm out — preferably with multiple fingers extended — to let those around them know which way they’re going to go.
But as it turns out, it may not be illegal.
The section of the vehicle code that specifies our right to ride on the roadway, CVC 21200, clearly states “a person riding a bicycle… has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle….”
In other words, any law that applies to a driver applies to a bike rider. And drivers don’t have to signal their turns unless it affects other vehicles.
But don’t take my word for it. It says so right here in CVC 22107 —
22107. No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.
So if your turn doesn’t interfere with the movement of other road users, a signal isn’t required.
For instance, if you’re making a left turn onto a street with no vehicle traffic, there should be no legal requirement to signal. The only exception would be if there were cars in front or behind you on the first street whose movement might be affected by knowing if you’re going to turn or go straight.
Or say you’re turning right onto a street with a designated bike lane. A turn signal shouldn’t be necessary, even if there are cars on the street you’re turning onto because they aren’t legally allowed to drive in a bike lane, and therefore shouldn’t be affected by your movement.
Of course, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you won’t get a ticket for it.
But as bike lawyer Bob Mionske pointed out recently, if you get a ticket for something like that and you can afford to fight it, you probably should.
There’s a good chance that the officer who wrote the ticket won’t show up in court and the case will be dismissed. Or even if he or she does, the officer may not clearly remember the case — which is yet another reason to never argue with a cop so your case doesn’t stand out in his mind.
But assuming he does, ask the officer to diagram the location of every vehicle on the street at the time of the alleged infraction. And explain exactly which ones were affected by your failure to signal, and how.
If he can’t do it, the case should be dismissed.
Key words being, should be.
Because as we should all know by now, the courts don’t always bend over backwards to ensure justice for those of us on two wheels.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t signal your turns.
It’s smart. It’s courteous. And it’s usually safer, though there are times when prudence dictates keeping both hands on your handlebars.
And lord knows, you don’t want to argue with Prudence.
But you may not be breaking the law after all. Even if you don’t lift a finger.
Update: Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious points out that this law could be read to refer to movement of the vehicle, rather than a requirement to signal. The problem is, the law was written in the 1950s, evidently prior to the invention of punctuation, which could have clarified the meaning.
Then again, if you ride in Alhambra, you may be breaking the law.
But only if you live there.
That city is one of a rapidly dwindling list of towns that still requires registering your bike, even if does only cost a dollar to do so.
But despite what their city ordinance says, you can’t legally be ticked for riding your bike in Alhambra if you live in another city and haven’t licensed it in the city you live in. If your city even requires it.
That’s because their law is illegal.
The section of the state vehicle code that allows cities to require bike licenses, CVC 39002, clearly states that any such licensing requirement applies only to residents of that particular city. And therefore, may not be applied to anyone biking in or through that city who doesn’t actually live there.
So you live in Alhambra and get a ticket for not licensing your bike, pay it.
If not, once again, fight it.
Here’s your chance to take part in the upcoming Climate Ride for free.
And maybe even have your required fundraising done for you.
Laemmle Theaters invites you to ride along with company president and LACBC board member Greg Laemmle on the five-day fundraising ride through Northern California to benefit sustainable transit and green energy.
Four winners will have their entry fee paid as members of Team LACBC, and win a free pass for two at any Laemmle Theater for the remainder of this year.
And one of those four winners will receive the grand prize, meaning the company will contribute the minimum required fundraising amount of $2400 on your behalf.
Which means you’ll not only ride for free, but all your required fundraising will be done for you. Of course, you’re still welcome to raise more money on your own; it is a good cause, after all.
You just have to fill out the simple form on the link above, and explain why you want to ride with Greg.
Entries are due by April 5th.
Finally, after riding through the Biking Black Hole both ways on my way too and from a meeting in Downtown L.A. on Wednesday night, I have a suggestion for their new city motto:
Beverly Hills. Where the bike lane ends.