A comprehensive California Bike Safety Law

Let’s pick up where we left off last time.

As you may recall, I’d commented on the LACBC’s proposed Vulnerable User Law, which would increase penalties for anyone convicted of careless driving who kills or injures a cyclist, pedestrian or other vulnerable road users.

A good start, I said. But only a start, because what’s needed is a more comprehensive reform of the laws intended to ensure our place on the road, keep cars and bikes from coming in contact and governing what happens when they do.

That led to a comment from Chet K, who identified himself as a member of the LACBC, and said that the organization is open to the possibility of legislation that goes beyond a strict focus on vulnerable users. As he put it,

I don’t believe LACBC has discounted any possible solution, or set of solutions, that could result in safer roadways. What is needed is more constructive input and participation by interested road users to help push this forward.

So let’s take them up on that.

If you’ve been a regular visitor here — or you’ve clicked the links at the top of this page — you probably have a pretty good idea where I stand on the subject. So let’s take a look at some of the provisions that have already been passed in other states lately that could form the basis for a comprehensive California Bike Safety Law:

Three foot passing law — Colorado, Massachusetts, Indiana, South Carolina and Louisiana have recently joined a growing list of states that require that drivers pass cyclists at a minimum of three feet distance, and allow drivers to briefly cross lane dividers when necessary to pass a cyclist safely.

• Prohibit harassment of cyclists — Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, South Carolina and the city of Columbia, Missouri have passed laws that prohibit intentionally striking, throwing objects, yelling or honking at cyclists in a manner intended to startle, anger, frighten or injure them.

Ban right hooks, left crosses and cutting off cyclists after passing — Massachusetts now prohibits turning into the path of an oncoming cyclist or cutting back into the lane until safely clear of a cyclist; many drivers don’t learn the inherent danger of turning or cutting in front of a cyclist until it’s too late.

Safer signaling rules — Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Carolina now allow signaling for right turns by either bending the left arm upward, or pointing right with the right arm. In addition, many of the states no longer require a continuous signal if traffic or road conditions require the rider to keep both hands on the handlebars.

Give cyclists greater legal protection in bike lanes — Colorado has taken an important step by extending the same legal protection enjoyed by pedestrians in a crosswalk to cyclists riding in a bike lane. In addition, many of the states have banned drivers from blocking bike lanes.

Riding two abreast is explicitly permitted — Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Carolina have eliminated any confusion over whether cyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side in the roadway, allowing two-abreast riding as long as it doesn’t impede the normal flow of traffic.

Treat non-responsive red lights as a flashing red — Indiana has recognized that bikes are frequently unable to trigger the roadway sensors that cause traffic signals to turn green; as a result, cyclists there are now allowed to proceed through a red light after stopping and waiting a reasonable period of time.

Require police training in bike law — Massachusetts now requires that all police recruits complete a training program developed in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that eventually all officers will be well-versed in the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.

Explicitly ban dooring — Massachusetts has also made it a violation to open a car or truck door into a passing cyclist, or directly in the path a cyclist — accidently or otherwise.

In addition, most of these states have clarified the hard-to-define and frequently misunderstood requirement to ride as far to the right as practical with language that recognizes the need to take the lane when necessary to avoid obstacles or obstructions, or when the lane is too narrow to allow safe passing. And most require that drivers be educated in both the new laws and the rights of riders.

So which of these laws are right for a California Bike Safety Law?

All of them.

My suggestion would be to start with the Massachusetts law. Then add in provisions to ban harassment of cyclists, give riders in a bike lane the same protection as pedestrians in a crosswalk, ban blocking of bike lanes, and allow cyclists to ride through red lights that don’t change on their own after waiting a reasonable amount of time. And include the LACBC’s proposed Vulnerable User Law, as well.

Of course, you may be wondering if all this is really necessary. So ask yourself this. Are cyclists still getting harassed, injured and killed on our streets?

Then yes, it is.


Stephen and Enci Box are attempting to film without fossil fuel. Alex notes the Palms Neighborhood Council unanimously endorsed the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Metblogs says you could get a ticket for riding the wrong way on Speedway. West Hollywood clarifies the laws regarding riding on the sidewalk. San Diego cracks down on pedicabs after a tourist is killed. A Texas man is honored for giving over 4,000 bikes to underprivileged children. Bob Mionske discusses the Idaho Stop Law. Finally, Damien is asking for input designing a questionnaire for the candidates to replace Wendy Greuel in L.A.’s Council District 2, and Stephen Box notes the issues that will frame the debate and where you can meet the candidates. Because things won’t get better for cyclists in this city until we elect a government that makes it a priority.


  1. Cautious Cyclist says:

    The flaw of treating non-responsive red lights as a flashing red is that California cities will not be motivated to abide by California Statute AB-1581 for signals to detect bicycles upon first placement or replacement. From routine riding, cyclists come to know which signals detect and will ride through if there is no traffic. However, a city like Newport Beach will exploit bicyclists and non-detecting signals to fabricate vehicle citations. The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) chases cyclists into a Back Bay nature preserve used by hundreds of cyclists each weekend. City traffic engineers Tony Brine and George Bernard acknowledged that the Back Bay signal had been set back to not detect bicyclists. It is disconcerting to watch a police motorcycle chasing a woman cyclist in sports apparel on a quiet Sunday afternoon into the desolate Back Bay. Lieutenant Steve Shulman sent me a letter stating the practice serves as an example. The example is that a community has to monitor police behavior. And amazingly, Lieutenant Shulman retired and filed a claim against the city for not being promoted to Captain.

  2. TJ says:

    Many cyclist out there have ego bigger than the cars they are trying to take on. What is wrong with you guys? Is the tight bike shorts cutting off blood to that little brain along with your grouch? Is it the narrow unfortable seats that make you so arrogant? I am a cyslist and what I see is many on a power trip daring drivers to mess with them. This is my road just like yours…so fu-k yourself. Well guess what you morons, just move to the right and be considerate and share the road, not try to hog it.

%d bloggers like this: