Change the law, change the world
Most traffic laws were designed to move cars from here to there, with maximum speed and efficiency. Very few were written by cyclists, or with the participation of anyone who has ever been on a bike beyond the age of 12.
As a result, bike traffic is usually nothing more than an afterthought shoehorned into the laws and traffic lanes — without regard to whether it actually makes sense.
That may have worked in decades past when most cyclists never left their own neighborhoods and riders, spandex-clad or otherwise, were an anomaly on the roadway. But things have changed, as more and more cyclists are sharing traffic-clogged roads with motor vehicles, as well as pedestrians.
At the same time, our government has a significant stake in promoting cycling, whether in terms of improving the health of its citizens or the health of our planet. Or just reducing the number of cars on our overcrowded roads.
As a result, they have an obligation to reform traffic laws in ways that will encourage cycling and protect the safety of all bicyclists, whether they use their bikes for recreation or transportation.
The following are my suggestions for ways our existing laws regarding can — and should — be changed, to help us all get home safely, and make every ride a little more enjoyable.
Maybe together we can do something to change the laws. And help get more people out of their cars, and onto the saddle.
1. Fix California’s new three-foot passing law
After two previous vetoes, California Governor Jerry Brown finally signed the latest attempt at mandating a minimum three-foot distance when passing a bike rider within the state, replacing the previous vague instructions to pass at a safe distance that did not interfere with the rider.
Unfortunately, the law was significantly watered down before it ever reached his desk. A section allowing drivers to briefly cross the center line when safe to do so was removed (see #4 below), and a clause was inserted allowing drivers to pass at less then three feet after slowing down and using caution, rather than requiring drivers to wait until it is safe to pass.
By allowing drivers to pass at less than three feet, it removes all teeth from the law, maintaining the current vague standard and making it virtually impossible to enforce unless a driver actually strikes a cyclist.
This needs to be corrected if the law is to be effective in improving safety and compliance.
2. Prohibit turning into the path of an oncoming cyclist
Among the most dangerous situations any rider will face is when a driver passes on the left, then cuts across his path to make an immediate right turn. Or when a driver makes a left directly in front of an oncoming rider.
Most of the time they get away with it. And sometimes they don’t, which can result in a serious, often fatal, accident in which the rider smashes into the side of the turning vehicle.
Too many drivers underestimate the speed of a bike, and think they’ve got time to complete the turn. Or they 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.
3. Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse
Too often, cyclists and drivers try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. When that happens, the driver inevitably blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider.
And too often, they get away with it.
However, the law requires drivers to be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them at all times. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists or other vehicles on the road around them.
Granted, there may be situations where riders are hidden behind another vehicle, or riding 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 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.
4. Clarify that drivers are allowed to leave their lane to pass a bike
As a driver, I was taught that it’s okay to briefly go into the other lane or cross the yellow line in order to pass a cyclist safely. And I’ve always understood that the law not only allowed that, but encouraged it.
But while some L.A. drivers do just that, many others — including my own wife — are reluctant to pass a cyclist if it means putting a wheel on the divider line, let alone actually crossing it. Instead, they slowly drive 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 actually room to pass.
So let’s make it clear that every driver is allowed to briefly enter the other lane or cross the center line to pass a cyclist — as long as it can be done safely and there are no other vehicles in the way.
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 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 blocking the bike lane, and force riders to risk their own safety, for no reason other than their convenience.
Maybe it’s a delivery truck double-parked in the bike lane. Maybe utility workers, cable installers or parents dropping off their kids at soccer practice. Or any of the countless other reasons people needlessly, and thoughtlessly, block bike lanes.
So let’s stop it, already.
It’s already against the law to double park, in or out of a bike lane, and while state law technically allows parking in bike lanes, most localities forbid it. So let’s explicitly ban all parking in bike lanes, and 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 are there for our safety, not their convenience.
6. Require that bike lanes be maintained in their original condition
This is the other side of the bike lane problem. There are countless reason that could require roadwork in a bike lane. Like maybe they have to fix a problem beneath the roadway, or do some work to accommodate a construction project 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, they often leave the lane in worse condition — sometime much worse — than before the work was started. The crews seldom take the extra care necessary to level the road surface, resulting in uneven ridges or dips in the roadway. It may not seem significant, and it’s something most drivers wouldn’t even notice. 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, or a bike lane or any other part of the roadway where cyclists can be reasonably expected to ride, the road surface must be returned to it’s original condition — or better. Just take a few extra minutes to smooth out the patches and fill up the dips. Honestly, is that so hard?
7. Drivers should bear responsibility for any collisions in a bike lane
It should be obvious. A bike lane implies the presence of bikes, just as a crosswalk implies the presence of pedestrians. Which makes it the responsibility of the driver to anticipate cyclists, and be on the lookout for them. Those two lines of paint should be sufficient warning to any driver not to enter that lane for any reason without first scanning every inch of it for bicycles.
There is simply no reason why any driver should ever turn into the path of a rider, back in or out of a parking space without checking for oncoming bikes, or open a door into a rider in a bike lane because he didn’t check his mirrors first.
So let’s make it clear that those few feet of asphalt belong to us, and it is the responsibility of the driver to enter, cross or stop in the bike lane safely — not the responsibility of riders to avoid him. And therefore, unless it can be shown that the bike rider was clearly at fault, the driver should bear 100% responsibility for any collision that occurs with a cyclist riding safely, and legally, in any bike lane.
8. Require regular police and maintenance patrols of all off-road bike paths
Instead of fighting our way through traffic or dodging drivers who can’t seem to grasp the concept of a bike lane, an off-road (or Class 1) bike path should provide the perfect opportunity to just relax and enjoy a good ride. But too often, it doesn’t work out that way.
Because these paths are located away from major roadways, they are often out of view of the public, and seldom, if ever, seen by police patrols or maintenance crews. Which means that any problems along the path, from broken pavement to criminal activity, are usually hidden from view.
The result is that many cyclists decide they’re better off taking their chances on the streets — abandoning the alternate routes we’ve fought so hard to get, and often leading to further deterioration.
So let’s demand regular safety and maintenance patrols of all off-road bike paths, both by the local police and the appropriate city, county or state maintenance agency — and require that at least some off those patrols be done by bike. Because any rider knows, things look and feel completely different behind the handlebars than they do behind the wheel.
9. Require a bike lane or sharrows for any roadway with heavy bike traffic
Instead of putting bike lanes and routes where traffic planners think they should go, put them where the cyclists already are.
Take PCH, for instance. Every day, hundreds, if not thousands, of riders brave heavy, high-speed traffic, turning cars and narrow, sometimes non-existent, road shoulders along the coast through Malibu, making this one of the most popular riding routes in Southern California. And yet, despite the near-constant flow of bike traffic, there’s nothing more than a few “Share the Road” signs to accommodate cyclists or improve safety.
So lets insist that form follow function, and require every city and county in the state to study the bike traffic within its jurisdiction. And that any street, road or highway with heavy bike traffic be required to safely accommodate bicycles through the establishment of bike lanes or off-road bike trails that follow the roadway, whenever possible, or by installing sharrows and adequate signage and traffic signals.
10. Assign greater responsibility to the larger — and more dangerous — vehicle
Some members of the European Union — notably Denmark and the Netherlands — have revised their laws to make the driver automatically responsible for any accident involving a cyclist, except in the case of particularly outrageous and illegal behavior by the rider.
While I doubt something like that could ever pass in this country, the rational behind it is sound.
As the law currently stands, drivers and cyclists in this country share equal responsibility for avoiding accidents. But cars and SUVs are, by their very nature, dangerous vehicles, and in any collision between a two-ton vehicle and a cyclist, the rider will inevitably come out on the losing end. Or as the European Commission document behind the proposal to extend the Danish and Dutch laws to other countries puts it, “Whoever is responsible, pedestrians and cyclists usually suffer more.”
So let’s place greater responsibility to avoid an accident — and therefore, greater liability — on the operator of the larger and more dangerous vehicle. Not total responsibility, but enough to reflect the greater vulnerability cyclists and pedestrians face on every road, and at every intersection, every day.
11. Investigate any report of vehicular assault as a criminal violation
For most of us, a car is simply a means of getting from here to there. But as the incident in Mandeville Canyon shows, it can be a deadly weapon in the wrong hands.
From intentionally striking or dooring a cyclist, to forcing a rider off the road or into another vehicle, there are countless ways a driver can use his or her vehicle to threaten or injure a rider. Even something as seemingly harmless as throwing an object from a moving vehicle can cause a rider to lose control of his bike, with potentially deadly consequences.
But just try to report something like that to the police. In most cases, they’ll say they didn’t see it, so there’s nothing they can do. Or if they do bother to respond, usually because of an injury to the rider, they’ll treat is as a traffic accident, rather than the criminal activity it is.
So let’s demand the protection we deserve. Let’s contact our legislators, and insist that they amend the law to clearly specify that anyone who uses a motor vehicle to threaten, intimidate, attack or injure a cyclist or pedestrian should be charged with assault and/or battery with a deadly weapon, and subject to a prison term and seizure of the vehicle, as well as permanent loss of driving privileges. And insist that any report of a motor vehicle being used in such a manner be investigated by the police as a criminal matter, rather than a traffic infraction.
Because your life, and mine, may depend on it.
12. Turn stop signs into yields, and red lights into stop signs
Riding is hard enough without breaking your momentum to stop for a stop sign every other block — especially if there’s no one else at the intersection. Or stopping at a deserted intersection in the middle of the night, and having to endure a seemingly interminable wait for the red light to change
But failure to do so could result in a sizable ticket if you don’t happen to notice the cop coming up behind you.
So lets try a little common sense, instead. Reform the law to reflect what many, if not most, cyclists already do — an approach that’s already been proven to work in the state of Idaho for over a quarter of a century. And allow cyclists to treat stop signs as if they were yields — slow down, look around carefully, and in the absence of conflicting traffic, proceed through the intersection.
For red lights, come to a complete stop, ceasing all forward momentum. Then if there’s other traffic at the intersection, remain stopped and wait for the green light. But if you’re the only one waiting at the light, you should be able to treat it like a stop sign. And once any cross traffic has passed, continue on your way without having to wait for the light to change.
13. Put a permanent end to hit-and-runs
Nearly half of all traffic collisions in Los Angeles are hit-and-runs. And too many of those result in a bike rider writhing in the street fighting for his or her life — a life put in greater risk by the failure of the driver to call for help when every second counts.
One major incentive for drivers to flee is that the penalty for drunk driving is greater than the penalty for hit-and-run. It’s actually to the drivers’ benefit to flee the scene and sober up before they turn themselves in.
So the law has to be changed to make the penalty for hit-and-run equal to the penalty for drunk driving.
But it has to go further. Prison overcrowding means that anyone sentenced for a non-violent offense is likely to be released after serving just a fraction of their sentence.
So let’s take away their licenses. And their cars.
Anyone who would leave the scene of a collision has already shown themselves unfit to be behind the wheel. Their license should be automatically revoked — not suspended — regardless of whether or not they are ever charged or convicted of a crime.
Meanwhile, the car they used to commit the crime should be impounded and held as evidence until a decision is made whether to file charges, and through any trial. If the driver is convicted, the vehicle should be seized and sold, with any proceeds going to the victim. After all, you don’t let a bank robber keep the gun he used. State law already allows the seizure of any vehicle used in a drug crime or to solicit prostitution; isn’t a hit-and-run a little more serious than trolling for a blow job?
One last note.
If the victim of a hit-and-run dies, the driver should face an automatic homicide charge on the assumption that he or she might have survived if the driver had stopped and gotten help, as required by law.
Well said…especially the reference to motorists giving cyclists 3 feet of space when passing from the rear. The more we talk about this need the more it will become a part of not only our thinking, but our behavior. That is when it makes a difference and that will be refected in fewer cyclists being injured and killed.
The introductory prose shows a lack of historical perspective on why traffic laws were created back in 1903 in Manhattan when traffic deaths occurred at a rate of about one per day. The laws we now have were originally designed to allow drivers of bicycles, animal drawn vehicles and early motor vehicles to operate safely. When they are obeyed, these laws still work. Separating opposing flows (CVC 21650) prevents head on collisions, Requiring slower traffic to use the right hand lane (CVC 21654) and faster traffic to pass on the left (CVC 21750) and having left and right turns made from the left and right sides of the right half of the roadway (CVC 22100) separates turning drivers from through drivers; all for safety. The problem is additional discriminatory laws applied to bicyclists (CVC 21202 and CVC 21208) and improper police education which leads to laws like 21750 in particular, being improperly enforced. Cyclists should be treated as full and equal drivers, subject to the same rights and duties as all other drivers. Here’s the relevant textfrom the LAB Equity Statement:
“Equality – The equal legal status and equal treatment of cyclists in traffic law. All US states must adopt fair, equitable and uniform traffic laws, that are “vehicle-neutral” to the greatest extent possible. Cyclists’ ability to access to all destinations must be protected. State and local laws that
discriminate against cyclists, or restrict their right to travel, or reduce their relative safety, must be repealed.”
I’ll comment on your list 12 items in separate comments.
– Dan Gutierrez –
Long Beach, CA
Long Beach Cyclists, Board Member
Aerospace Cycling Club, Founder and Current President
South Bay Westside Transportation Mgmt. Assoc., Board Member
CA Assoc. of Bicycling Organizations (CABO), District 7 Director
Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee, Policy Chair
League of American Bicyclists (LAB):
League Certified Instructor, LCI #962 Dual Chase Productions LLC, Co-Creator CyclistLorax Channel on YouTube
It is a fallacy to suggest that bicycles and vehicles should be treated as equals under the same set of laws. Vehicle registration, inspections? Uh no thank you. Insurance? Come on! I don’t think that there is a bike light on the market that would meet my state’s requirements for a motor vehicle headlight. Driver’s license? Should we make it so that a kid can’t operate a bike until they are 16, have had a learner’s permit, and then pass a test?
We’re allowed to ride down the shoulder. Motor vehicles are not. Motor vehicles have to have mirrors. Bicycles do not. And the list goes on.
This idea that bicycles and motor vehicles should be treated the same under the law is a fool’s errand.
They are not the same, and to make them the same would KILL CYCLING!
I’m on board, with everything you suggested, regardless of was “yosh” says. I don’t think it has anything to do with, insurance or who much more expensive it is to drive it a car. I think it has everything to do with basic human safely.
You pay more to drive your car but you are considerably safer in inside a ton of metal when a car driver and a cyclist collide.
It shouldn’t matter how much your expense is, if you are on the road whether in a car or a bike you should feel safe.
I say again, I’m on board, the only problem I see is I don’t know where to sign.
Until such time as the current California Governor is out of office, riding a bicycle on California roads should be defined as tatamount to committing suicide, and as such should be reason to invoke the suicide clause on life insurance policies.
So basically, your argument is that no one enforces the laws as written anyway so the post is wrong? I think that “originalist” argument is a bit goofy. In San Francisco, they give tickets to cars that violate the 3 foot rule. The courtesy ends in Fairfax, where the ticketing goes mostly to cyclists who violate the laws, but, it’s justifiable because the bike lanes are protected and prevalent. 50% of traffic fatalities are cyclists and pedestrians. The fact that cars don’t even follow the laws we have isn’t a tenable argument against making safety requirements a lot stricter than they are right now. It’s like saying the law already prevents police from shooting and beating unarmed people to death so there’s really no need to change things. Don’t innocently make textual arguments when lives are at stake.
Much of what you ask for just passed in TX as the Vulnerable Road Users’ bill (SB 488) that makes hitting a cyclist or other person on the roads without the protection of a motor vehicle a criminal offense. Now we just need to get our dim-bulb walking hairpiece of a governor to sign it into law.
We recently enacted a “law” in CA regarding using hand held telephones while driving. I would like to suggest that unless laws are obeyed, they serve no purpose.
There need’s to be a law to limit the size of intersections. The current situation has resulted in massive intersections that pedestrians and cyclists have difficulty crossing.
Here’s an update on how the LAPD feels about cyclists and their rights.
I have a cyclist friend who experienced a road rage incident with a motorist this morning in West LA. When he called the LAPD, with license plate #, etc., the LAPD told him that they no longer file road rage reports for these types of incidents.
I can’t believe that the LAPD is so ambivalent towards the lives and rights of cyclists that the West LA station will not file a report when someone is nearly killed by the intentional actions of another.
Unbelievable! Especially after the Mandiville Canyon incident and the leading role that the prior complaint against Dr. Thompson had on that case.
Jason, that sucks. I understand that the police usually can’t take any action in the absence of witnesses or physical evidence; however, you’re right — if the driver had threatened your friend with a gun instead of a car, they would have responded instantly.
I’m hoping that cyclists will have an opportunity to talk with the new chief, and this is definitely something we should bring up. I’d also suggest contacting Council member Rosendalhl, as head of the city council Transportation committee, as well as Paul Koretz; they are the two council representatives for West L.A. And your friend should definitely bring this up at the next meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee next month.
Create a vulnerable road user law, which would require the DA to file aggravated sentences for crimes against these road users. If a law (speeding) was broken previously to hitting a user it should be considered a criminal offense.
Drivers would likeley be more considerate if so many cyclists wen’t so insistent on taking their portion of the road out of the middle.
Especially here in LA.
Cyclists that are oblivious to the fact that cars exist and do need to use driveways and turn lanes, etc.
It’s such a pleasure to put on your blinkers, only to have some jackass on a bike race you to the intersection and dawdle while coasting through.
Bikes are by nature rather vulnerable. Maybe it would be wise if their riders acted like it.
A couple of the cyclist fatality articles referenced on here point out quite clearly that the cyclists couldn’t be bothered to follow the laws (stop signs) or even bother qith simple common sense (bikes ARE difficlut to see and in many cases do NOT have right of way, especially at stop signs, and a car cannot stop on a dime, and, lastly, that the laws of physics work against them in a car/cicycle interaction)
It’s sad that many careful, dedicated cyclists have to put up with crap, but the vast majority of the folks pedaling (that I see/interact with) are nothing but a hassle to deal with in traffic.
Also, it’s true that laws need to be clarified. Cars already have to deal with the nightmare laws that exist for dealing with pedestrians. Making cars kow-tow to bikes (and/or responsible for any collision) is imply moronic.
As it stands, bikes occupy an odd space as a mishmash of vehicle and pedestrian. Even if the laws do not really “say” that, the net effect is the same. Either they are a vehicle and MUST obey all moving vehicle laws (including staying off sidewalks) or they are pedestrians (and must stay off streets)
Automobiles are a fact of life, and the laws of physics aren’t going to change any time soon. Barring some sort of peak oil epsiode (or similar) they are and will contunue to be the dominant form of transport on our roads (and are the large portion of the reason why the roads exist at all) An effectinve mass transit could help, but given the economy, don’t hold your breath.
So, work to improve legislation, but beware expecting too much. The roads are NOT intended for bicycles as a primary road user. (at least not until you are paying $400+ a year in licensing fees)
The “vast majority [of cyclists] are nothing but a hassle to deal with”? Laws protecting pedestrians from cars are “a nightmare”?
I’m pretty sure cyclists are not the ones with the bad attitude.
Well said. Cyclists are nothing but a pain in the ass that think they own the road. Most have absolutely no respect for the other people around them. If they would use and obey the same laws as other people on the roads I would back them. They want more space then they should pay for more space through licensing.
Name one driver — including yourself — who obeys traffic laws on regular basis. Who never speeds, always signals, changes lanes in a safe and legal manner, always comes to a full stop at every stop sign.
And let’s not forget the fact that a full one-third of all traffic collisions are hit-and-runs — and I can guarantee you that it’s not cyclists who are fleeing the scene.
Face it. People ride bikes the way you and virtually everyone else drives their cars.
In light of the fact that you left your comment on Easter Sunday, I quote someone far more enlightened than myself: “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
When drivers such as yourself use the road in a safe and legal manner, then you’ll have every right to complain about anyone and everyone else on it. Until then…
Again, this argument always sounds like something I’d hear in preschool.
First, you complain that drivers break the law. Drivers shouldn’t speed. Drivers shouldn’t run red lights. Drivers shouldn’t roll through stop signs. Your arguments are all valid and legitimate and I agree with them fully.
But when cyclists break these laws? “Well, cars do it, too!”
I’m never really sure what you’re advocating here when you say that. Are you saying it’s okay to break the law because other people break the law? If people ride bicycles the way people drive cars and the way people drive cars is bad then wouldn’t that also say that the way people ride bicycles is bad?
Or is it just a plaintive cry, “STOP PICKING ON ME!”
Second, considering the above, I see a disconnect between behaving recklessly and the whole, “We’re so vulnerable!”
For example, if I’m in a car and I run a stop sign and I’m hit by a speeding car, there’s a decent chance that I’ll survive, thanks to guys like Ralph Nader and our Federal Government. I have airbags, seatbelts, side-impact crumple zones, and a host of other things to protect me.
If I’m riding a bike and I run a stop sign and I’m hit by a speeding car, I’m probably a goner.
So is this your complaint? That it isn’t fair that, as a reckless driver, there’s a good chance I’ll survive my recklessness but as a reckless cyclist, I’ll probably be killed?
Frankly, as the grown-up in the room, I don’t care “Who started it.” All road users need to learn to share the road and to make sure that everybody gets the benefits. I don’t care that you’re late for work. I don’t care that stopping for a stop sign will totally mess up your Strava time.
Oddly Peter, while you see yourself as the grownup in the room, you come across as the exact opposite; you’re arguments seem like they haven’t evolved beyond the grade school playground.
The purpose in pointing out that drivers break the law too isn’t that bike riders should be allowed to do it. It’s that we live in a society where people break traffic laws. Drivers do it, cyclists do it, pedestrians do it. So why point the finger only at bike riders?
As you say — and I have said ad nauseum — everyone needs to obey the law. Period. So what exactly is it you have a problem with?
As for your absurd argument that bike riders are jealous that you will survive a crash and we won’t, please. Flip it around. When someone on a bicycle breaks the law, they biggest risk they pose is to themselves. When someone operating a deadly, multi-ton machine breaks the law, they pose a risk to everyone around them.
I don’t want to break the law when I ride my bike; in fact, I don’t. I just don’t want to be killed by someone who does, and who would rather blame others than take responsibility for his own behavior.
Oh, and I’m not on Strava. Never have been, and never will be. Just like the overwhelming majority of people who ride bicycles.
Why point the finger only at bike riders? Because it’s an article about bike riders!
So I’m talking about how bike riders break traffic laws and that’s a bad thing to do. And you will immediately respond, “Well, what about cars?! They break traffic laws, too!” And that’s not what the discussion is about. If you want to have the discussion about how cars break traffic laws, that’s fine. They shouldn’t do it, either.
The disconnect I see with breaking the law and cyclists has to do with the whole, “We’re so vulnerable!” argument. Cyclists are vulnerable. But when you run a stop sign, you’re putting yourself in more danger than if you stopped for the stop sign. How are we supposed to reconcile, “It’s so dangerous out there” and “it’s only my life I’m risking.”
“Cyclists … think they own the road.”
They do, as much as any car driver “owns the road.” Check the vehicle code.
Further, I would suggest that as a taxpayer, homeowner and cyclist, I pay much more prorata for my use of roads than car drivers when you factor the amount of road I am using and the costs associated with building and maintaining the roads.
As a new road cyclist, I feel for cyclists, however I think you make some great points and really nail the Driver’s point of view well (especially here in LA). When I am driving, I find that cyclist’s own erratic and inconsistent behavior is half of the problem. Since you don’t need a license to jump on a bike, there is a lot of ignorance as far as the rules of the road. The end result is, cyclists move unpredictably, inconsistently, and often end up in places you don’t expect them. When I already have 25 cars buzzing around me, red-light cameras, jaywalkers, changing street signs and complicated laws (no turn on red, but only during certain hours), it becomes very difficult to watch out for a small fast moving object. I do not believe that current, modern, congested roads are meant for bikes anymore. It’s just not safe.
How many of the reasons that bicyclists use poor behavior can be traced back to the inequal application of traffic laws? Sure, the car driver is irritated by the cyclist that keeps him from his right turn, but the cyclist is also forced to ride to the right, or in a bike lane that puts him in the conflict area with the right turning motorist. If he was encouraged to ride by the same rules as any vehicle, the cyclist could pass the right-turning auto on the left, eliminating that conflict and any frustrating delay. This is just one example.
Totally agree. I watch cyclists exhibit arrogant and stupid behavior, ignoring stop signs, pedestrians, even each other.
That said, the State of California just got rid of the most ignorant, self serving, worthless governor in the State’s history. He had no understanding what so ever of transportation issues.
He was determined to bring high speed rail to California at the cost of all else. His train to nowhere cost the State untold billions of dollars and wasted man hours.
He has now been replaced by an equally idiotic individual who will no doubt continue to waste resources on some pet programs.
California could be an example of how to be a leader in alternative transportation (dedicated bikeways). The billions wasted on the foolish high speed rail project could have been spent on creating true right of ways for cyclists, maybe many miles of it.
For 20 years I rode a short commute of 8 miles to work every day. I faced hazards almost daily of every type including equal amounts of idiocy from vehicles and cyclists.
I quit riding bicycle in California over a decade ago because of the dangers after one incident too many. I put a hole nearly through my helmet after hitting a chain link fence post. I had been forced to jump the curb to avoid being run over by a sand and gravel truck. The driver was trying to make a light and driving in the bike lane. His tires were scraping the curb. This was in a bike lane. My bicycle is now ridden only out State on dedicated bikeways in states that have developed biking infrastructure.
Nothing has changed, in fact, I believe it has gotten worse. The ignorant and irresponsible use of public money by the State has only contributed to this problem.
Let the jackasses in Sacramento hear about this. They need to get their heads into the sunlight on this issue.
“a car driver” points are well taken. I think if cyclists thought more about drivers and their point of view from the driver’s seat, then they would be able to second guess the moves of the driver and stay safer. I love riding a bike and I do it as recreation. I do think that the conflict between car and cyclist starts at this point….that is to say, why we are on the road. When drivers get in a car, they want to go someplace. As cyclists, most times we are using the roads for the pleasure of cycling, not transportation.
Wes, I think you have an interesting point of view. Anytime you want to write a guest post, let me know.
My point of view comes from starting road cycling in the 70’s, with Como Street in OC. I know 70’s and 80’s racing and group riding (when it was fun and safe). My commute to work was from Olympic/La Cienaga to Cal-State Northridge area, three times a week. I think I know how to ride in traffic. I think those who are from that first bike boom and continue to ride are somewhat in denial, as to why things have gotten so deadly. I don’t know what I can add that has not been said before, but I am flattered that you might want me to post. That being said, I am not sure if anything printed, including this blog, will change much at all. However, I admire your dedication and love of the bike. The same goes for others like you. Wes
I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions – that somehow, people would cycle in traffic for the pleasure of it. From my point of view, I’m on my bike taking up maybe 18 square feet. You’re in your car taking up more like 72 square feet. We’re in a city that has limited space on roads that are congested. Why did you pick a vehicle that’s too wide for downtown?
Have you seen the “bike box” now in use by Caltrans?
Can’t say I have, but judging by the photo, they look great.
I stumbled across this website because I am biking more and really love it. However, I also drive a car and am amazed daily at the cyclists and pedestrians that I see on Pacific Ave in Venice/Santa Monica. It seems that quite often I have to swerve to avoid a cyclist or pedestrian who is oblivious to the cars on the road. They are either veering into traffic or hanging off the curb into the car lane. Pacific is NOT a street that is safe for bicycles. Until there is a bike lane there, bikes should not be allowed on this street. I think this website is great, and would like to see the city improve it’s roads for biking.
I’m glad you’re biking more; however, you may be misunderstanding some of the basic rights and rules of bicycling.
First, state law ensures that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as all other road users, and are allowed to ride on any road cars are allowed to use, with the exception of some freeways. So bikes can’t be banned from Pacific or any other street.
Second, what may seem unsafe to you could actually be the safest way to ride. For instance, cyclists should never ride in the gutter on any road; instead, they are supposed to ride as near as practicable to the right side of the road, which usually means riding within the right traffic lane. That may seem unsafe, but it actually positions the rider where he or she can be seen by traffic in both directions, and prevents drivers from passing within the same lane when there’s not enough room to do so safely.
Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t some very reckless riders out there. I’ve encountered more than a few myself.
One excellent resource for brushing up on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists is the recent training video prepared by the LAPD for their officers. It shows how they interpret and enforce the law, and by extension, how cyclists should ride to be both legal and safe.
Number 12 is a little iffy, but otherwise I’m with you.
Still, it’s all great for us to talk among ourselves and wish that these laws were in place. But that doesn’t actually do anything. What steps can we take to get this done?
Secondly, as others wiser than I have pointed out, the mere EXISTENCE of laws still doesn’t do squat. How do we “educate” the police to enforce these laws? Or the laws that are already in place, for that matter?
I’ve had enough friends killed or injured while riding, and don’t want to just keep wishing things were better.
Actually I think #12 is one of the least iffy ones. It has been the law in other states for quite a while, and works well.
I’d love to hear the status of proposing bills on the above subjects, which I think would be more successful in piecemeal fashion. I’d love to help draft the bill for yielding STOP signs.
I drive a car in west LA. I have bicycle, moped and a motorcycle and have driven/ridden all kinds of vehicles in my life.
I am pro cycling for the obvious reasons of traffic congestion, healthy for people and less emissions. It does not suit my current living situation though so I commute by car.
Most of the reasonable/practical things you list are already illegal. The point I strongly disagree is the attitude that cyclist would have less responsibility for their actions/folllowing the rules than cars.
I constantly dodge bikes riding wrong direction on one way street, blasting trough stop signs – often passing stopped cars and making themselves extremely vulnerable for getting hit by drivers who are acting responsibly.
Generally cyclist who have lights and helmets seem to act like rational people, maneuver predictably and follow the rules. However they seem to be the minority.
Every day I have to dodge cyclists who think they are “totally visible” 7.30pm without lights mixed in with vehicles with full headlights. and the new hip fixer crowd who obviously make it a point to break rules by plowing through red lights in big swarm of bikes.
Yes cagers should do head checks, use blinkers and not be idiots. And yes infrastructure and planning should be more bike friendly but as is the general cycling crowd doesn’t do a very good job of their own in following the rules.
When I ride a motorcycle I assume that people don’t see me. Its might not be right that I have to do so but I accept it. I do my job by wearing bright helmet using blinker and trying to be predictable and of course trying to read other crazies on the road.
I just realized the link I posted would be more appropriate in this section as it directly addresses point number 5: Prohibit Unnecessary Blocking of Bike Lanes.
Please check on my post in the About BikingInLA section.
The Texas Vulnerable Road Users’ Law was vetoed, as many here probably know. Still, it could become a precedent elsewhere. Any chance it will be given a 2nd attempt in Texas?
In the meantime, much of Europe uses Strict Liability so that cyclists and pedestrians, if injured in any crashes with motorists, do not have to prove motorist fault first in order to receive compensatoni — because it is assumed automatically.
Peter Meitzler, We bicyclists and pedestrians would love to see it like you say it is in Europe, with “Strict Liability so that cyclists and pedestrians, if injured in any crashes with motorists, do not have to prove motorist fault first in order to receive compensatoni — because it is assumed automatically.” However, in Arizona the PD almost always finds some excuse to blame the bicyclist and pedestrian, thereby making it open season on bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Texas governor’s vetoing of the “Texas Vulnerable Road Users’ Law,” is one reason not to vote for governor Perry.
Strongly agree with #12… I found your blog while searching up what to do with a bicycle ticket I recent got concerning just that.
Fine was $234.00 in Orange County, that’s more than half my bike!
I find commuting much more…aggravating now that I have to Dead-stop at EVERY stop sign or scan around for cops.
you know what I think you guys need to licensed and taxes as a motor and pay renewal fees each year, you guys are a menace while riding your bikes in the Canyon roads and frankly if the road is to narrow you should not be allowed ride and pull stupid stunts.
You really fired this fucker up now.
Yeah, heard it before. Boring.
I think licence plates on bikes is the answer to most the problems, If you have to register and licence your bike we could get the idiots off the roads. The same way we do with motorist, this would remove a lot of the issues. Paying a small fee per year, say $250.00 annually could provide money for better bike infrastructure.
That’s good in theory, but wouldn’t work in practice.
First, a license plate large enough to be read at a distance would be to large to fit on a bike. Second, licensing cars has done absolutely nothing to get idiots off the road; what makes you think it would work with bikes?
As for your suggestion that a small fee — larger than many motorists pay — would provide for better bike infrastructure ignores the facts that a) bikeways cost pennies on the dollar compared to streets and highways, and b) local streets, like bikeways, are funded by general taxes, which means that bicyclists already pay for them.
First off, if WE are a menace at the speeds WE travel at, chances are YOU are probably going TOO FAST for your own good.
Secondly, in regards to fees and taxes, WE are already doing our part for society by consuming less fuel, causing less polution and contrary to your statement, I beleive that WE make the roads safer because we are not moving at ton of metal at 50 miles an hour down a public street.
The less cars and the more bikes on the road, the safer our cities become.
So fire that up.
Have a lovely day.
(Comment removed due to personal insult directed towards a previous commenter)
Jack, I don’t allow personal attacks on my blog. Play nice.
Jack regressed to his simplest nature when he didn’t have a good comeback. I understand his frustration.
Here’s something interesting for all the Cyclist haters… and you can look this up if you don’t believe it.
Motorists assume the roads were built for them but it was cyclists who initially lobbied for roads.
Here’s one of many links to that end.
Secondly, riding a bicycle on state roads is a RIGHT, driving a motor vehicle because it is considered heavy machinery, is a privilege not a right. Look it up, it’s true.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
I believe I have used proper language and refrained from insulting anyone with what I have stated above.
Have a lovely day all.
One of the most common complaints I hear on these types of forums and discussion is that cyclists don’t pay their fair share in DMV registration fees. Obviously, they have no idea what these registration are actually used for:
Needless to say, it isn’t for road maintenance…
I am here after reading of a local hit and run fatality. They are not uncommon, just not well known unless the victim is known, directly or indirectly.
I am tired of the effects of drunk and distracted driving. I need to find strong advocates to join.
I ride responsibly, yet know my life can be taken by a motorist.
The point is that no motorist has the right to operate a vehicle, if they do so in a manner that could cause the loss of life.
Fines of 2,000.00 for texting while driving would not be excessive in my mind.
Drunk driving would be more extreme, and I dare not list what I’d propose as a penalty.
Wish me luck finding a group. I can’t stand to see more lives taken needlessly.
I now ride my bike with a Contour video camera facing front and rear. It would be nice to be able to send the PD clips showing company logos, phone numbers and license plate #s of drivers that have tried to clip me, cut me off, pass me and turn right…..not to mention the flying fickle fingers, the “ride on the side walk comments”, thrown bottles, cans and flicked cigarettes.
I have gotten a few revenge calls done. I WILL call on company vehicles to report stupidity. The Orange Hilton may be short one limo driver soon.
I have a camera mounted in my car, cyclists are by far the worst offenders. This isn’t a biased opinion it’s a fact. Next it’s the pedestrians, honestly most of them are too stupid to walk. They don’t understand the basic walk signals. Don’t get me wrong there are some really stupid drivers on the roads, the difference is you can report the drivers as they have licence plates.
I tried to report a couple of drivers who intentionally used their vehicles to put me in danger. You know what happens? Police send them a letter or maybe pay a visit to their house. Unless you can provide a full description of the driver’s face etc, apparently you can’t charge them with assault.
So as much as I agree that cyclists should have some accountability, I also want to say that drivers don’t get held accountable, and they put cyclists in much more danger.
There’s a reason cars are licensed and bikes aren’t: cars are several orders of magnitude more deadly. Should I have to show my ID to buy a slingshot the way I do to buy a gun?
I can’t argue with your camera, but when I take tallies of who’s breaking laws, it comes out about even between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Who’s being the most dangerous when they break the law? Always the drivers.
My husband is an avid rider and commutes every day to his job via bike. I am very concerned about bike safety because he has had many close calls with vehicles. All of this makes me a much more cautious driver. But I could not disagree about the stop signs and red lights. Where we live in the Fairfax district not a week goes by without a cyclist speeding through a stop sign where I have the right of way (i.e. no stop sign) and I’ve come dangerously close to hitting them. Not only did they not stop but they didn’t even seem to look and then it somehow it becomes me fault? And I’ve witnessed a collision between a biker and a pedestrian at a cross walk where the biker did not stop at a red light. No one likes to stop at multiple stop signs or red lights but why should bikers be exempt when walkers and drivers are not?
No one is suggesting that bicyclists should have the right to ignore right-of-way, or to blow through stops when others are present.
The law I suggest has been in effect in Idaho for decades, allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yields — that is, ride through without stopping only when it is safe to do so and there is no conflicting cross traffic. And they are required to stop for all red lights, and may proceed only when there is no other traffic moving through the intersection.
There are two reasons for this. First, as your husband can no doubt attest, intersections are dangerous places for bike riders. A high percentage of collisions occur at intersections, from right hooks and left crosses, to distracted drivers who don’t see bikes stop right in front of them. It is far safer for riders to go through the intersection when the way is clear and it is safe to do so, than wait there like a sitting duck.
Second, bikes pose little or no risk to others on the road. Cars are required to stop because they pose a risk to everyone on the road around them, while even the most aggressive rider is a danger primarily to him or her self.
The results have been born out in Idaho, where serious cycling injuries and deaths at intersections dropped dramatically the year the law went into effect, and have remained low for decades.
As a regular bike commuter and weekend cyclist, the notion of changing the reaction to a stop sign to that of a yield is intuitive and a reflection of ground truth. However, I have to respectfully but forcefully disagree on the ability to go through a red light.
I stop at every red. It won’t kill you to wait a few seconds for it to turn green. But it definitely might kill you to misjudge whether the conditions are right to pass through it. There are plenty of idiots that fly through red lights now when I am stopped and traffic is moving in the intersection – they go through like it’s their right (I’m especially looking at you IronFly guys). And they destroy any PR I do by sitting there waiting my turn.
So Amigo, I’m on board with the other 98% of things you are advocating here, but not this one. Stop at a red light. Period.
Love your blog otherwise, friend, you contribute to the common good. But I definitely am against running red lights under any circumstance.
The population of Idaho is 1.5 million if it had 20 times more people the law would change. I am concerned that you want the motorist to automatically be at fault when a cyclist or a pedestrian is crossing against the light. One law for every one makes more sense.
Very good point.
Idaho is predominantly rural. The biggest city is Boise, with a population of 145,000. That’s about the same population as Torrance or Pasadena.
Personally, I’d leave it up to the city.
That’s smart. Let’s have traffic laws change from one side of a city limit sign to the other, so no one would have any idea what’s legal and what isn’t as they drive through the 87 separate municipalities that make up LA County.
There is a reason why only the state is allowed to write traffic laws.
While I understand this argument, and it is valid, there’s a hell of difference between riding a bike–or driving a car–in downtown Los Angeles than in, say, downtown Los Alamitos.
By the way, last I knew, right-on-reds were illegal in New York City but were fine in the rest of the state. Somehow people figure it out. Especially if you put up a sign that says “Stop” and I sign underneath that says “Bicyclists Yield.”
Bicyclists certainly CAN pose a risk to others! I was hit by a bicyclist running a 4-way stop sign that caused over $2200 of damage to my car (yes, the cyclist was obviously at fault based on where the damage to my car was located – just in front of my rear tire). What I didn’t realize was that bicyclists carry no responsibility legally for their actions!
That’s not true, Susan. Bike riders carry the same liability as anyone else. If a bike rider breaks a traffic law, he or she can be ticketed just like a motorist. And if a bike rider causes property damage, as you say happened to you, they can be made to pay for the damages just as if you were hit by a car. For damages under $10,000, you can take the person responsible to small claims court to hold him to her accountable.
Ah, yes, the ol’ “I’m only endangering myself when I run a stop signal.”
Behold the true libertarian American spirit in all of it’s glory. “I don’t need the gubmint telling me when I should be stoppin’ or goin’! I’m smart enough to decide this for myself! After all, it’s my life!”
And when the cyclist is hit?
“It’s so dangerous out there! I’m so vulnerable on my bike! Somebody should do something about this!”
See, basically you’re saying that if there’s an accident, it’s the car’s fault. They bear more responsibility because they’re driving the more dangerous vehicle. Okay, maybe so. But then you pair that with the “Idaho Stop” law and you have a problem.
By the way, have you read the laws in Idaho about Yielding? I’ll quote the best part:
In other words, you can treat a stop sign as a yield and go through it if there’s no traffic. But if there’s an accident? It’s your fault.
Honestly, I have no problem with this. Treat a stop sign as a yield. If you make it through, great! But if you don’t, don’t whine about how it’s everybody else’s fault and they should all be watching out for you.
Yes, exactly. If you fail to observe the right-of-way, and it results in a collision, it is your fault. The Idaho Stop Law requires that the bike rider observe the right-of-way. Period. No argument. We’re in total agreement here.
As for drivers looking out for those of us on bikes, I only wish. The first thing you learn riding a bike is that you have to look out for your own safety, because too many drivers don’t.
And yes, drivers do have an obligation to drive safely. That’s the agreement you make when you accept a driver’s license. Cars are dangerous machines; bicycles aren’t. One requires a license, one doesn’t for exactly that reason.
According to the NHTSA, 42,708 people were killed in traffic collisions last year, an average of 96 a day. Guess how many of those were killed by people on bicycles.
No, really, go ahead and guess.
Really? Hey, that’s great.
So you’d stop accusing the police of “blaming the victim” when a teenage boy who rode through a red light is hit by a speeding hit-and-run driver? You know, like you did in today’s (August 30) blog installment?
As for how many were killed by people on bicycles? I’ll guess…17? It’s my favorite number.
A few things to keep in mind, though. First, you’re looking at deaths. I’ll agree that cyclist cause fewer deaths–you pretty much have to “fall wrong” to die from a bike collision. The impact from a car can have you dead before you hit the ground.
Second, the obvious: there are more cars than there are bicycles. So there will be more deaths from cars than there will be from cyclists. If you look at pure numbers, that’s always going to be the case.
Third, NHTSA doesn’t track deaths on shared-use paths. So something like this wouldn’t be tracked,
For chrissake Peter, stop being such a troll.
As regards the boy in today’s post, you mean the police didn’t blame the victim? As near as I can tell, that literally what they did. I did not say they were wrong to do so; if he did in fact run the red light, then he was in fact at fault. However, I always take such reports with a grain of salt in the absence of independent witnesses; in this case, the story does not specify why police concluded he ran the red light.
The number of people killed by bicycles each year can be counted on one hand. The other 42,703 were killed by people in big dangerous machines. And despite your assertion, there will always be more people killed by cars than bicycles, not because there are more cars, but because cars will always be more dangerous than bicycles.
You are right, though, that the NHTSA doesn’t fatalities caused by bicycles that occur anywhere other than roadways. But the CDC does.
Hmm…It’s not letting us go deeper.
I dunno. Maybe they asked him. It’s not like he died. And it’s not like they asked the driver who hit him–y’know, the guy they’re looking for?
See, this is the attitude that annoys me.
You say that the law requires the bicyclist to observe the right of way and, if he doesn’t, he was in the wrong. You’re okay with that concept. But you will never accept that the cyclist was in the wrong. The cops are lying. The driver is lying. There ain’t no way that it’s the cyclists fault. The cyclist is the victim here!
I mean, you dance a pretty dance when you get called on it. “Yes, they literally blamed the person who got hit. That’s ‘blaming the victim.’ I didn’t say they were wrong!” Of course, there’s a whole psychology behind the term “blaming the victim” which you’ll now claim to be ignorant of.
By the way, I’d love a reference to your “big number” of 42,708. The best I could find was that was the total fatalities from 2006. According to NHTSA, the number for 2015 was 35,092–a 7% increase from 2014. Those numbers include solo accidents–cars driving into trees. And against that number, you’re saying that 5 of those came from cyclists hitting pedestrians. That’s not really a fair comparison.
If we look here, we’ll see the number is closer to 4,884.
So, yeah. Nice try.
You’re right, Peter. I made a mistake; in trying to respond to you, I glanced at this morning’s post and copied the wrong figure.
See? I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong. As I have countless times in the past. But maybe you don’t come here often enough to see that.
Quite simply, there is always another side of the story, whether you like it or not. People have a tendency to paint themselves in the best possible light, consciously or not. And police make mistakes, sometimes out of bias, more often because of inadequate training in bike law, and non-existent training in the unique properties of bicycle collisions.
In this particular case, we heard from the police, but not from the kid who was hit, or the asshole who left him lying in the street.
I also try to use the word “allegedly” in describing drivers accused of even the most heinous crimes, but for some reason, you don’t seem to object to that.
Quite frankly, I don’t care if that attitude annoys you. You are under no obligation to come here if you find this site that objectionable, just as I find your repeated efforts to paint me as some wild-eyed car-hating radical objectionable.
This conversation is over. Any further comments will be deleted.
Good job, bikinginla. Thanks for the logical reasoning, and defending us cyclists.
Today was the arraignment…judge would not post bail, suspend license or even require the man who killed Donny McCluskey to appear in court. How do we find justice?
Too bad the local PD will not take video or verbal reports from citizens and do anything……
I have to say that I don’t see the point in changing the law by adding all those topics. Yes, sounds great, but I don’t see all that happening even if it turns into a law.
The only law I think should be valid to protect cyclists is the dutchDanish rule. The cyclist should have the same rights as pedestrians, no matter what, because the car is a 1 ton metal machine against a person in 2 wheels.
Still, here in long island, ny, the only reason a car would stop for pedestrians other than a light is with the sign on the road that says “yield to pedestrians – it’s the state law”. otherwise they just think “fuck-em”
[…] And for those who are interested in what laws ought to be passed or changed, a bunch of suggestions — some more controversial than others — are posted at the blog BikingInLA. […]
Great to see the 3 foot buffer law finally get passed by the California legislature. For more details, see my blog post here:
Good article. I would also propose making it a misdemeanor or felony for texting while driving and causing physical injury or great bodily injury. On Oct. 1st, I was hit from behind by a car traveling 45 mph while I was in a bike lane in San Jose. The driver (23 yr old college girl) denied she was texting but the witness driver behind her who saw the whole accident though otherwise. I lost a lot of skin and 3 month rehab for my knee. I think the cops should be allowed to seize as evidence the cellphone of any driver who is involved in an injury accident to determine if the driver was texting.
Texting while driving is INTENIONAL DRIVING WHILE DISTRACTED, and in my opinion no different than driving while intoxicated. Both type of drivers show the intent to be impaired drivers and should be treated as such.
I am a rider, commuter, and enthusiast of over 40 years. I have dealt with these problems thousands of times, and I expect them to happen – and they do. I have been run off the road-Santiago Canyon, I have T-boned cars that “didn’t see me”, but I have come to the conclusion that I’d rather be wrong and alive, than right and dead.
We can legislate common sense for those that don’t have it, but we can enforce it only infrequently. In the interim, cyclist are killed.
Drivers do not understand (many of them) that bicycle riders are at a sever disadvantage when pitted against a car, or, maybe they do understand – and this is why they are not worried.
If they are not concerned for the health of the cyclist, perhaps they would be concerned about the cost of a ticket and a price increase in their auto insurance rates, but once again, we have the problem of enforcement.
No enforcement is why habits will not change, so a physical separation is the only effective answer. It doesn’t matter how much “teeth” the laws have, if there is no enforcement, people will not follow them.
Not every law can be enforced. To do so would require hundreds of times more police and judges than we already have.
You cannot legislate common sense. If you could, people would not be texting while driving and people on bikes would not be riding “fixies” even though it is against the law in California.
People on bikes would be smart to stay out of the way of cars the same way pedestrians stay out of the way of cars, and the same way that someone driving a honda civic stays out of the way of tractor trailer. The minute you think you have a “right” to be someplace in traffic, is the minute you may be killed. Ask anyone who rides motorcycles and then you will understand. Being right and dead earns you nothing.
And yet, millions of people do exactly that, safely, every day. In fact, less that 700 bike riders are killed in the US every year, as opposed to over 30,000 motor vehicle occupants. And for the same amount of time spent driving and riding, you are over twice as likely to die in a car as on a bike.
So which one is really the dangerous activity?
And despite your assertion, fixed gear bikes are not against the law in California. What is against the law is riding a bike with no brakes. Many fixies have brakes, while virtually all can leave a skid mark on dry pavement — which is the standard for braking under California law — in the hands of a skilled rider.
Defending the very poor definition of “leaving a skid mark” is not something I would expect you would say. One could jam their foot inside the spokes and “leave a skid mark”, but neither you or anyone else would really recommend that. Certainly someone with a high “skill level” can pull off lots of things. A stunt driver could probably bring a car to a ‘skid’ and stop the car without brakes too, but that is not a safer procedure, and since many non-skilled people are riding brakeless bikes, that is not a safer set-up either.
I think the other thing that really bothers me about brakeless/fixie riders is the fact that many state that riding without brakes makes them feel “free” and in their own words put it all out there while riding.
Makes no sense.
I’m not defending anything. That is the definition of a brake under California law. Don’t like it? Get it changed. But until you do, a fixed gear bike meets the definition.
And don’t confuse or conflate fixed gear bikes and brakeless bikes. Some fixes have no brakes, many do.
And try to understand that there are many types of bike riders with many different skills sets, many of whom can ride circles around me and you.
Don’t judge others by what you can or cannot do. Or are not willing to try.
“12. Turn stop signs into yields, and red lights into stop signs”
This is a perfect example of cyclists who feel entitled and above the same laws that motorists must follow. Should laws be changed so that cars yield for stop signs, and cars are allowed to proceed through red lights if there is no traffic approaching?
This idea is nonsense and a perfect reason why many motorists treat riders the way they do. Because they see people on bikes rolling though red lights, or pulling the right turn- u-turn and the right turn around the red light while never stopping.
So what if it is “hard” to restart from a stop. That is the rule and it should not be changed. What you are advocating is entitled chaos.
Oh please. As Bob Dylan said, don’t criticize things that you can’t understand.
How does changing the law put anyone above the law? By any definition, it does just the opposite.
What you fail to accept is that cars and bikes are different. Cars pose a significant risk to others, while bikes don’t. Bikes also provide their users with far greater visibility and maneuverability, and faster stopping ability while traveling at lower speeds.
If you read this again, no one is calling for mass chaos. Bicyclists would still be required to observe the right-of-way, just as they do now. And they would still be required to stop for stop signs if there are other vehicles in the intersection, and wait out red lights if there is cross traffic.
All this would do is allow cyclists to legally perform the same rolling stops most drivers already do when it does not pose a risk to themselves or others, and not have to wait out traffic signals when they are the only ones there — especially since most traffic signals don’t change for bikes, which can leave riders stuck there until a car finally comes along.
It has been the law in Idaho for decades. And instead of the mass chaos you predict, it resulted in a significant decrease in bicycling collisions and injuries.
As for this “entitled” crap you keep harping on, if you were a regular reader of this site, you’d know that I have long called for everyone — drivers and bicyclists alike — to observe the law as currently written and to ride and drive in a safe, courteous manner.
In fact, if everyone rides and drives safely and obeys the law, those collisions you fear simply would not happen. In order to have a collision, one or more parties have to break the law or operate their vehicle in a dangerous manner.
So please, get off your “entitled” horse already.
#1 – Los Angeles is not Idaho. Idaho for one does not have tens of thousands of drivers from other nations who are driving without a license and who have zero cultural understanding of our concepts of ‘right of way’. Even where there are laws and customs already in place – they don’t follow them.
#2 – Just because many cars roll through stops does not make it legal or safe. Changing laws to make that action legal for bikes does not make things safer. Bikes should wait for a light the same way a car does. You wait your turn even when it may not seem like you should need to. That’s just the way it is. A patient person is usually a live person. Rush the light and get it wrong and you get hit by some guy going faster the other way than you think… and HE HAS the green light.
#3 Bob Dylan does not drive the number of miles I drive through the streets of Los Angeles. Bob Dylan writes songs.
Actually, intersections are dangerous places for bicyclists. A rider is at far more risk simply sitting there “safely,” as you suggest, than if he or she were to keep moving when it’s safe to do so,
Maybe if you’d try riding your bike instead of driving, you might get a better understanding of how the streets really work for people on bikes. And you might discover it’s a lot safer than you think.
Oh I see. So given that explanation then a pedestrian is far more at risk standing stationary at a red-light crosswalk than proceeding as well. Same with cars at a light, same with jets waiting to take off at a the airport.
Besides, it doesn’t matter, red lights means stop. You stop and wait until it turns green, that is the law. The fact that you actually believe that the law is inconvenient to you and other bike riders, is making my point.
I do ride a bike, and when I am on the street I am the one following the rules. I am the the one who always yields the right of way and NEVER assumes to take the right of way unless it is yielded to me first. Call me foolish, but I STOP for stop signs and I wait for red lights. I am not the one who is entitled.
Really, do you have to try so hard to misunderstand?
A pedestrian at an intersection is not standing in the street. A motor vehicle is a large, easy to see object that takes up a lot of space.
A bike waiting at an intersection, on the other hand, can be easily missed by an inattentive driver, who may plow into the rider while coming to a stop or turning right. In addition, a bike rider is at risk from vehicles trying to squeeze by to either get ahead or make a turn. Statistically, intersections are the single most dangerous place for cyclists, in part for exactly those reasons.
I never said I was inconvenienced by the law, I said the law should be changed to improve safety. Big difference.
And don’t assume you are the only one who ever obeys the law. I stop for every red light and stop sign, I signal and always obey the right of way. Just like most bike riders.
In fact, a recent study showed that 96% bike riders stop for stop signs. Doesn’t sound very entitled to me.
Here’s the problem. You are basing your opinions on your vast experience as a driver, while I base mine on 40 years experience as a motorist, over 30 years as an adult bike rider, and a decades-long study of bike safety.
And actually, you are the one who feels entitled, because you feel free to sit in judgement of me and others when you have no idea how we actually ride, and no experience to base it on.
That is called an “appeal to authority” and it is a fallacy of logic.
My “experience” is based on 40 years of driving and 50 years of riding a bike and an entire lifetime of observing stupid people and the the things they do.
Based on your “inattentive driver scenario”, a pedestrian standing at a the corner waiting for a green light is generally standing farther forward than a bicyclist waiting for a light (assuming that the cyclist is following the law and is waiting behind the ‘limit line / fist line of crosswalk’.
But you should know this since you have “studied” these things. The pedestrian on the curb is closer to vehicle cross traffic than vehicles waiting for the light. And this is why as a pedestrian you should not be waiting right at the curb, you should be farther back and watching the approaching traffic.
You do wait behind the limit line for the light don’t you?
And yet, you yourself said you never ride in the street, and only drive to a bike path to ride your bike. Which makes your bicycling experience worth exactly nothing.
And sorry, but I’m done playing this game.
Find another blog to troll.
If it’s a lot safer than you think, they why all the complaints? 12 things to change to make you safer. Read this blog from top to bottom and all you hear is a whiny, entitled sissy boy that contradicts some of his own points along the way. This guy is spot on.
Careful, Mark. I allow people to say whatever they think on here, as long as they avoid trolling and personal insults. And I’d say “whiny, entitled sissy boy” is a personal insult. Keep it up, and you’ll be blocked, and your comments will be removed.
Why is it if someone who rides bikes and has a divergent view is labeled a “troll”?
How is my bike riding experience worth nothing because I put my bike on a car rack and ride to any number of places in Los Angeles and Orange county where I can ride safely with friends and others for fun and exercise? How I ride makes perfect sense and millions do the same. From mountain bikers to guys who ride road bikes. People rack or trailer to a point and ride to their heart’s content— literally for the heart’s content and health.
But oh no! not good enough for you, right? My bike riding doesn’t count unless I am making some political statement by “corking” roads and playing games like some entitled ‘occupy wall street’ type.
The backlash against your type of bike rider is already occurring. Groups like ‘Critical Mass’ and ‘Wolfpack’ are breaking laws to get noticed and what will occur is a ban on bikes in many areas. Woldfack even organizes and encourages illegal bikes without brakes on city streets, which is clearly in violation of California state vehicle laws.
Yep, keep talking and keep blogging and you will screw up bike riding for people all over the state. Oh and btw, riders without brakes get zero consideration in court with civil cases. So good luck with that.
No, you’re a troll because you come on here looking for an argument rather than a legitimate discussion — note the screen name you chose, let alone the belligerent attitude apparent from your first comment — and go out of your way to find things you can disagree with, legitimately or not.
And where the hell do you get off ascribing to me beliefs and attitudes that I may or may not have and have never stated here or anywhere else?
Did I ever say I ride Critical Mass? Did I ever say I ride brakeless? Let alone support or have anything to do with OWS? You’re making up straw dogs in your own mind simply so you can knock them down to feel a little better about yourself.
And that is what makes you a troll.
As for your owned admitted non-experience on a bike, yes you may ride one. And yes, many people prefer not to ride on the streets. But those who don’t have little authority to lecture those who do on how to safely share the road with motor vehicles.
As I noted, I’ve been riding for over 30 years as an adult, with a very conservative estimate of 160,000 miles traveled on a bike in that time — most of that on public streets in urban environments.
And just what type of rider am I? Have you ever ridden with me? Have you ever seen me on a bike? Have you been reading this site long enough to understand my philosophies on bicycling and how to ride safely?
Or are you making assumptions based on nothing more than your insatiable desire to feel good about yourself by baselessly criticizing others?
As Carnegie said, any fool can condemn, criticize and complain. And most fools do.
Nope not a troll, just a person who likes to ride bikes and who is worried about the entitled manner in which many riders in Los Angeles are behaving. If you cared about riding the way I do then you would not be excusing the bad behavior of other riding groups. Advocating to eliminate stopping at stop signs and replacing it with yielding is being entitled.
I obviously struck a raw nerve with you by disagreeing with your philosophy but I think of it this way: Just because someone owns guns and likes to target shoot does not mean they should do it in a city. And just because someone likes to ride bikes all the time does not mean that they should be doing it where cars (on streets) or pedestrians (on sidewalks) should take precedence. If there are dedicated bike lanes and trails then that is fine. But especially in downtown areas there really isn’t any good place for bikes.
BTW, you probably have seen me. I’m the guy with the bike on a rack driving safely to a safe place to ride.
Besides, downtown there are plenty of buses if someone doesn’t own a car.
Nope. You didn’t strike a nerve by disagreeing with my philosophy. I’ve had a number of intelligent conversations — in person and online — with people who disagree with me. As I have often stated, I can learn more from those who disagree with me than those who do.
Where you went wrong is mistakenly telling me what I think and do, without a clue what the hell you’re talking about.
When and if you can remain courteous and respectful of myself and others on here, you’re more than welcome here. However, if you continue to be belligerent and try to ascribe to me or others beliefs and attitude we may not have, you will be blocked.
Shouldn’t the same thing apply to you as well? Or is this a “it’s my ball and I get to play how I want to” thing?
You are the one who used the F-word, not me. You are the one who said my opinion and my style of bike riding was worthless. If you can’t have a conversation without resorting to using the f-word, how do you think that makes your position sound?
Two months ago a group of bike riders riding near dusk close to Dodgers stadium assaulted a woman’s car because they thought she “disrespected them” when she turned left in front of the lead rider. As it turned out, she did not see them as none had on lights or reflectors and they were moving fast. She obviously made a mistake, but they contributed to the mistake. However, their response was criminal and somewhat typical now of many of these “fixie” riders are acting.
Since you like to have meaningful conversations, are you prepared to say that fixed gear riders without brakes (something already illegal in California) should be cited and/or have their bikes taken away?
I’m curious how you feel about that?
When I show you the disrespect you’ve shown me from your very first comment, then you’ve got a legitimate complaint. Until then, get over it.
And it’s my fucking website and I’ll use whatever language I like. No one ever told you couldn’t use similar language as long as it’s not directed at me or anyone else. Don’t like it? There’s the door.
As for your example, fixies with or without brakes are not illegal under California law. The law says a bike must have at least one brake capable of leaving a skid mark on dry pavement. As the wheel of a fixed gear bike locks the moment you stop pedaling, the bike itself functions as a brake, and is in fact capable of leaving a skid mark.
So it fits the legal definition under California law, which is why they have not been banned, even though some legal jurisdictions misinterpret the law.
That said, I personally would never ride a bike without good brakes. If a rider isn’t capable of stopping his bike in an emergency situation, he or she shouldn’t be on it.
However police have no authority to seize private property without specific authorization. Or do you think they should be able to take your car away because you have illegally tinted windows?
There is no excuse for violence by anyone on the roads, ever. If what you say is true, the riders were in the wrong, and could have been subject to criminal charges — and perhaps should have been. And having worked closely with the LAPD on bike issues over the years, I can assure you that bike riders are cited for riding without lights and reflectors on a daily basis.
On the other hand, I’ve been threatened by motor vehicle operators who have used their vehicles in a threatening manner, and could and should have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
But what on earth makes you think fixie riders are such scum of the earth? I know men and women in their 60s who ride fixed, and teenage fixed-gear riders who are as polite and courteous as anyone else on the road.
As noted before, there are good and bad who travel by every means and mode of transportation. I’ve seen some people who only bike off-road who were real jerks around others on the bike trails; that doesn’t mean all off-road riders are jerks, does it?
This guy is right on the money. These people act like they are entitled. Take responsibility for your own safety.
So then your answer is that you personally would not ride a bike without brakes but you believe the law as it is either misinterpreted, or interpreted in some jurisdictions, regarding fixed gear bike without front brakes is okay?
No, a brake is not your legs and feet. A “brake” on a vehicle is something mechanical that assists in stopping and why these types of bikes are slowly being legislated out of use on city streets all over the country. Since your blog is about ‘changing laws’ then you should be at the forefront for changing the law regarding brakeless bikes, or at least clearing up the definition. A good start would be front and rear caliper brakes on all bikes no matter how they are geared or you cannot ride them on public roads.
This what people need to do. They need to push back against some in the cycling community who are taking advantage of not only other cyclists, but other citizens as well. Brakeless bikes are unsafe, and they will be outlawed, mark my word on that. It will just take some more attention to the matter and watch what happens.
There also needs to be enforcement of laws against bicycle thefts. Parking and locking your bike should be as safe as riding it. My new iPhone probably will cost less than a new bike, but too often cops treat bicycle theft as something not to be worried about.
You’re right. Unfortunately, California changed the definition of grand theft a few years ago, raising the threshold from $250 to $1000 — more than the value of many bikes. The fact that many police departments don’t take it seriously is one reason bike theft is one of the fastest rising crime categories.
It’s hilarious to me that all over the Internet is cyclists saying they want to feel like they are safer on the road, yet every time I see one they are riding in the middle of the lane completely oblivious to cars approaching from the rear. Up and down hills and around blind turns in the middle of the lane, not as far to the right as possible. Maybe it’s time for you guys to take a little bit more responsibility for your own safety and “share” the road. Every cyclist is see feels he OWNS the road. It’s gotten to the point of absurdity. I don’t care if you want to ride your bike on the road, but show some respect to the motorists out there. Yeah, I’m in a larger more dangerous vehicle, so don’t you think maybe you should try to stay as far out of the way as possible. But most cyclists don’t. And as a car driver, why should I have to sit at a red light with no traffic coming, but you get to go right thru? This speaks to the mentality of cyclists. You all think you own the road now. I think more laws should be created to make cyclists claim more liability for their own safety. You want to be safe? Move to the right, AS FAR AS POSSIBLE!
I also think there should be laws to require a bicycle to have mirrors so you can see upcoming cars from your rear. And I don’t mean kids on BMX bikes. I’m talking about all the adult idiots out there riding around thinking they’re Lance Armstrong. You safety is your responsibility, not mine.
Actually Mark, everyone’s safety is your responsibility when you get behind the wheel. That’s the obligation you assume when you accept a drivers license. If you can’t manage that, you shouldn’t be driving.
Thanks for the comment, Mark.
Unfortunately, you don’t seem to have a grasp on bike safety. The reason bicyclists ride in the middle of the lane is because that’s often where they’re supposed to be. Even the DMV says cyclists shouldn’t ride to the right when the lane is too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle — which is most of the right hand lanes in the Los Angeles area.
Bikes are also supposes to ride outside the door zone, which means at least five feet to the left of parked cars to avoid being by doors swung open by careless drivers or their passengers.
Sharing the road does not mean that bike riders have to stay the hell out of the way of motor vehicles; it means that bikes and cars have to share the same lanes, which you seem to have a problem with.
You are right, however, that bicyclists are required to wait at red lights, just like drivers are supposed to. Most do, regardless of what you seem to think. And those that don’t usually do it to get a jump on traffic, because they thinks it’s safer than waiting at the light, because intersections are the most dangerous place for bike riders.
Maybe it’s time for you, like the Grinch you seem to emulate, to let your heart grow just a bit.
Oh, and that fake email address of firstname.lastname@example.org? Real classy.
Absolutely I have a problem with it. Stay to the side. Not in the middle. Please. All it is for cyclists is worry about me and not anyone else. Like I said, ride on the road, just out of the way of the big bad dangerous cars. If you don’t feel safe, do what the other guy on this blog suggests, find a safer place to ride. And like I’m gonna give you my email. You must be joking.
Mark, when even the DMV says it’s safer to ride in the middle of the lane than far to the right, the problem is yours.
If you can’t you can’t accept that, you don’t belong on the road. Period.
And don’t worry, no one is going to email you. Or would even want to.
The only thing I disagree with is the red light as stop sign clause. In a lot of streets I ride on in West LA, that’s suicidal.
I couldn’t agree more on stop signs, though. Not only is stopping at them a nuisance, but studies have shown cyclists compromise safety by stopping and restarting as opposed to proceeding as if it were a Yield.
Bicycle riding close to motor vehicles or pedestrians is very dangerous and any collisions with either can easily prove fatal. Bicycles cannot move as quickly as motor vehicles and motor vehicles cannot stop in the distances that bicycles inevitably typically leave between themselves and motor vehicles. Mixing them together leads to conditions which does lead to fatalities and always produces gridlock making bicycles a cause of wasted time, more air pollution, and wasted fuel in the transportation systems of most big cities. Most bicyclists have no sense of the force that their speed imparts so they consider riding next to pedestrian perfectly safe, even though they can and have seriously injured and killed pedestrians in collisions — with older adults and children being particularly vulnerable to suffering head traumas because they do not react quickly enough to protect their heads. As for not obeying traffic laws pertaining to stop signs and red lights because of fatigue from stopping and starting, it’s unsafe and misguided, too. Any athlete can tell you that the muscles must adapt to new activities and that with practice they adapt the strength and stamina needed to do it — even having to stop and restart every one hundred yards for red lights and stop signs. A significant number of accidents in your report cites running red lights by the bicyclists as one factor leading to the collisions. The reasons that bicyclists should obey the laws is to avoid confusion that results in mishaps, just as it is safer for a pedestrian to walk rather than to run across a crosswalk. My experience with bicycle riders has indicated that few of them have any concept of what they are doing and presuming responsibility of mishaps being the responsibility of the drivers of motor vehicles would be a big mistake.
Thank you for your comment, uninformed and biased as it may be.
I am stunned by the ridiculous demands being made by self entitled cyclists who seem to think that they can violate traffic laws such as stop signs, red lights, riding in crosswalks, riding the wrong way against traffic on the street, riding on sidewalks, etc. Now these same jackasses are demanding more legislation in favor of punishing auto drivers.
Keep in mind, it is the gas tax that maintains the streets and highways. Bicyclists do nothing to support highway maintenance and now DEMAND that the rules be changed to give them more exceptions to the existing traffic laws. I have seen bikers kick car doors, slam their fists into car windows, pound on car roofs and hoods, etc. all because they felt wronged somehow. This is a very dangerous situation and needs to stop. Violence begets more violence. This is no way to earn the respect of the people who are paying for the resurfacing and maintenance of the streets.
I am sick of the disrespect shown to our laws, to motorists and pedestrians. Twice I have had near misses where cyclists were flying down the sidewalks on their bikes with no awareness of pedestrians. Something has to change.
Thank you for your comment.
However, you are wrong that bike riders do nothing to support highway maintenance. Most bike riders also drive, and pay exactly the same gas taxes and registration fees that you do. In addition, gas taxes only pay for a fraction of highway construction and maintenance, most of which comes out of the general tax fund. And none of the fees pay for local roadways in any way.
You are right that some — not most, but some — bike riders break the law; a recent study found that bicyclists run red lights and stop signs at the same rate as motorists. Never mind that many, if not most, drivers also exceed the speed limit, and fail to signal turns and lane changes, and pose far more risk to others when they do.
Despite your assertion, it is legal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in many cities, and where that is legal, it is also legal to ride a bike in the crosswalk unless otherwise prohibited, since the crosswalk is considered an extension of the sidewalk. Many bike riders also believe, mistakenly, that they are safer riding against traffic; immigrants in many Latin American countries are taught to ride that way.
You are also right that violence begets violence, and no one should ever act in a violent manner towards anyone else. As a cyclist, I can tell you that when a rider acts in that manner, it’s not because they feel they have been wronged in some way, but because they have just been scared shitless by a driver who has put their life at risk. And let’s not forget the frequent acts of road rage directed at bicyclists, who are far more vulnerable than someone safely ensconced in a car.
As for “DEMANDING” changes in the law, I don’t know anyone who has demanded anything. However, I do know several people, myself included, who have advocated for changes in the law that have been proven to improve safety, which should be the goal of all of us.
However, if you want to talk about disrespect, let’s consider your use of the terms “self entitled” and “jackasses.” So before you condemn others, maybe you should take a good look in the mirror.
Hey, Clark? Fuck off.
In regard to ‘red lights’. Cyclists >SHOULD< wait for the light to cycle to green before proceeding. HOWEVER, at many intersections, here in Los Angeles, the light will NOT cycle if a vehicle is not sensed and most bicycles will not trigger the sensor (the sensors detect metal and my aluminum bike will not trigger the sensor). IF that is the case, I will treat the light as "BROKEN", stop and proceed when safe.
The links to lawyers just now taught me “The bike pedals must be equipped with white or yellow reflectors”
Yet most fail to comply?
Are people ticketed despite lots of strobes?
Pedal and rear reflectors are technically required, however, I’ve never heard of a rider ticked for violating that if he/she has adequate lighting visible from all four directions. I have zero reflectors on my bike, but always ride after dark with multiple tail lights, at least one headlight — usually one solid and one blinking — and reflective straps on my wrists and ankles.
It may be overkill, but I’d rather do everything I can to be seen.
Per CVC 21201.3, a reflector is required on “each pedal, shoe or ankle.” So with reflective ankle bands, you’re in compliance regardless of the status of your pedals.
How about require all cyclists to wear helmets? I recently biked from LA to NYC and it’s pretty appalling how moronic most are here with regard to traffic signals, vehicles, etc. WITHOUT helmets and often WITH earbuds/headphones.
What about harrasment and beeping by entitled drivers. I had guy in GMC subraban beep me and when I caught up tell my in my ebike I am taking up too much space
fortunately my ebike can catch up with the harrassesrs who can do a beep and run on me.