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Can I really “take the lane????” What the law says…and logic dictates..


Posted on August 21st, by allancrawford in infrastructure. 18 comments

10th street sharrowsWith more and more sharrows  showing up on the streets of Long Beach you frequently hear people ask “aren’t bicyclists suppose to ride as close to the curb or edge of the road as possible?”

And the answer to that is yes…except….when there are obstacles or the lane is too narrow for a vehicle and a bicycle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Below is the California Vehicle code that addresses this issue.  The first section of the code is why many people (including some police officers) think that bicyclists are “always” suppose to ride along the edge of the travel lane or roadway.  The second section outlines the exception and explains when bicyclists may use the full lane.

21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

The key words in section 3 (above) are “to travel safely side by side.”  The reason that this is an issue on so many of our streets is that if a bicyclist rides at the outer edge of the travel way where there are parked cars, there is the danger of someone opening a car door and hitting the bicyclist.  When this happens the bicyclist not only hits the door, but then frequently falls into the travel lane and into traffic.

 

Examples of “substandard lane widths” in Long Beach are streets such as 2nd in Belmont Shore, 4th, 10th and parts of Pacific.  On each of these streets because there is no room for a bicyclist and a motor vehicle to safely share the lane these, the lanes are by definition considered substandard width lanes.. and thus the reason a bicyclist has the right to use the full lane.  The reason we have added sharrows is that the sharrows indicate where the bicyclist should be positioned in the lane to avoid being doored.  In addition, by riding near the center of the lane the bicyclist is much more visible to drivers approaching from the side…making it less likely that a driver will either pull in front a bicyclist or hit them as they pull out of a side street or driveway.
The photo below illustrates the correct position for a bicyclist in the lane.  Note the open door behind the bicyclists.

door zone

 By being positioned where they are they avoid any possibility of being hit by the opening door and they are much more visible to drivers pulling out of parking spaces or entering from a side street.

 

Please let us know if you have any questions.

 

The Long Beach Bike Team….




18 Responses to “Can I really “take the lane????” What the law says…and logic dictates..”

  1. David says:

    Hey, thanks for publishing this. One minor nitpick, if you will: in your second paragraph you confirm that you should ride as far right as is possible, but the more accurate rule (as is printed in the fourth paragraph reciting the CVC) is to ride as far right as is /practicable/. This may seem like a semantic argument, but it is not. When drivers hear the word ‘possible’ they may shape that word to suit their own needs. I believe that is why the wording of the CVC is so specifically written; this is a determination to be made by the cyclist alone, based on his/her observations of the road conditions.

    • Joe B says:

      It’s not a semantic nitpick. I have been harassed by an ignorant LBPD officer who misquoted the law and insisted that I ride in the door zone because it was “possible” to do so.

      • allancrawford says:

        We agree…the word should be practicable…or practical. We could also probably substitute the word “safe.”

  2. Dominic says:

    “aren’t bicyclists suppose to ride as close to the curb or edge of the road as possible?”

    And the answer to that is NO!

    The law does NOT say “as close as possible”. That would be ridiculous. The key word in the law is PRACTIBLE, and nowhere does it say “as possible”

    It is absolutely possible to cycle in the gutter, but it is definitely not practible

    CVC 21202: Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as PRACTIBLE to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway

    • allancrawford says:

      Dominic…You are absolutely right. It is possible to ride to close to the door zone…put it certainly is not practical – nor safe!!!! Totally agree.

  3. Mark Friis says:

    There is also something else very important in the wording, “roadway”. The “roadway is divined as the area in which a vehicle travels. technically parking areas are not part of the roadway. Everyting to the left of the white line is. The shoulder is even questionable unless designated as a bike lane.

    • Bill Davidson says:

      You are correct Mark, but for the record, you are referring to:

      CVC 530. A “roadway” is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.

      Having an actual reference is always good.

  4. Wayne says:

    Taking the lane is much safer than all of the door-zone and non-buffered bike lanes in Long Beach. Since California is a “Mandatory Use of Bike Lane” state, will the city be revisiting the layout of bike lanes in the city?

  5. Michael Miller says:

    Now why don’t the police understand this? Also why isn’t this part of the driving test questionnaire? I find it thoroughly frustrating that they are so concerned with a cyclist running a stop sign but do nothing to enforce laws that will protect cyclists.And why don’t police enforce the no riding on sidewalks or folks riding the wrong way on the street (and some using sidewalks at the same time), all these things would help cut down on accidents along with the sharrows.

  6. Louis Wu says:

    “The reason we have added sharrows is that the sharrows indicate where the bicyclist should be positioned in the lane to avoid being doored.”

    NO! The sharrow symbol is only a reminder that the cyclist may use the lane. The full lane. It has nothing to do with where in the lane the cyclist should ride. That should be up to the cyclist as they see fit.

    It is not a position indicator. It is a reminder to motorists.

    • allancrawford says:

      Louis,

      As my colleague Dan Gutierrez has pointed out sharrows are more than a reminder that the cyclist may use the lanes. They should, when properly placed, act as a “guide” for where bicyclists should position themselves in the lane. Here is what Dan had to say in a recent facebook post.

      MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) Part 9 Section 9C.07: The shared lane marking may be use to:

      A: Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle,
      B. Assist bicyclists iwth lateral possitioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side withing the same traffic lane,
      C. Alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way,
      D. Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists, and
      E. Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling

      Here is a link to Dan’s post…
      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201132330261742&set=a.1230700779016.34632.1574017310&type=1&theater

      And a link to the MUTCD section on Bicycles…

      http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/signtech/mutcdsupp/pdf/camutcd2012/Part9.pdf

  7. Josh says:

    While it’s good of you to put sharrows centered in the travel lane, out of the door zone and in a reasonable place for cyclists to ride with safety, it’s best *not* to claim they’re intended to indicate where in the lane a cyclist should ride. That’s dangerous advice in cities that install sharrows the bare minimum distance from the curb allowed by MUTCD. Minimum-spec sharrows, like minimum-spec bike lanes, are squarely within the door zone, and do *not* indicate a safe place to ride.

    Stick to what MUTCD says, sharrows indicate to motorists that cyclists are expected within the lane, and help guide cyclists out of the door zone, but they *don’t* indicate a preferred position within the lane.

    Thanks for doing them right, but don’t give advice that depends on other cities doing the same.

    • allancrawford says:

      josh..you are right. A number of other cities have not done it correctly. They place them too close to the edge of the travel lane. However, if done correctly they are a good “guide” to where a bicyclist should be positioned in the lane. It both keeps the bicyclist out of the door zone…and makes them more visible to vehicle drivers approaching from driveways and side streets.

  8. [...] Can I really “take the lane????” What the law … – Bike Long Beach [...]

    • allancrawford says:

      here is what the CA vehicle code says..

      21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

      (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

  9. [...] Can I really “take the lane????” What the law … – Bike Long Beach [...]

  10. [...] ABC’s 20/20 program takes a look at LA’s hit-and-run epidemic, which the LA Weekly takes sole credit for uncovering; I seem to recall a long list of bike advocates who have been raising the alarm for years, but what do I know? Culver City hosts the annual bike-friendly Fiesta La Ballona this weekend. The comment period for the new Union Station master plan has been extended through the end of this month. Santa Monica will hold a free festival next month to preview the planned MANGo Michigan Avenue Greenway; for the sake of fairness, I hope they also have a WOMANGo greenway in the works. Santa Monica’s Bike Center will try to help the city’s businesses become more bike friendly. Sunday will see a Kidical Mass ride in Chinatown. Metro and CICLE team up to offer three free community bike rides in the LA area in the next three months. County Supervisor Gloria Molina joins with the LACBC and LA County Parks and Recreation to hold a free East LA Bicycle Ride on Saturday, Sept. 7th. Ride Pablove Across America will hold an LA fundraising ride in the Valley on October 12th. Okay, so it’s not a bike race, but proceeds from the October 20th Loco Motion 10K Run will benefit the LACBC in honor of fallen cyclist Marisela Echeverria, killed while riding on PCH last year. Red5 Yellow7 will host a workshop on how to choose the right bike on September 9th. The Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition will hold its first official meeting Saturday. Incycle Bike Shop says they’re having their biggest sale of the year. Bike Long Beach explains when you can really take the lane. [...]

  11. Lee Smith says:

    I’m glad to see we are making progress on 2nd Street, but I still the bulk of bicyclists riding off the sharrow and near to the parked cars. We need more education or publicity.

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