New Bike Legislation that Works for Bicycle Riders

Bicyclists in San Francisco showed what happens if they follow the letter of the law at stop signs. Photo by Aaron Bialick
Bicyclists in San Francisco showed what happens if they follow the letter of the law at stop signs. Photo by Aaron Bialick

Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious has a roundup of new bicycle-related bills introduced just before California’s deadline on Friday. Two are big news, including one that should clarify the rules about what the law about staying to the right actually means.

A.B. 694, says Masoner,

as of this writing completely removes the text ‘as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway’ and replaces it with more standard language for slow-moving vehicles.

The new law would now say that a person on a bicycle going slower than the rest of traffic “shall ride in the right-hand lane or bicycle lane, if one is present.” And the following exceptions would apply:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway

That means, continues Masoner:

If the cyclist is riding in a lane that’s ‘wide enough for a vehicle and a bicycle to travel safely side by side,’ then the cyclist must stay far enough right to allow faster traffic to pass, assuming no hazards.

It also clarifies that cyclists can legally move left “when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized,” something that is legal now, but not spelled out as such.

This bill validates the common ‘vehicular cycling’ practice of ‘taking the lane,’ which many A-to-B cyclists must practice on vast swaths of California roads where decent cycling infrastructure doesn’t exist.

Note that this bill is a second try from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) to clarify what the rules about “riding as far to the right as practicable” actually means, and one of the motivations for the bill is so that the police understand the law.

Currently,

The law contains a list of exceptions which includes a ‘substandard lane width’ clause, but the abridged vehicle code cheat sheet used by California law enforcement agencies does not contain these exceptions, and side-of-the road appeals to the actual law or to common sense (‘There’s literally not enough passing room!’) are often met with a response of ‘Take it to the judge.’

Masoner reports that Ting’s earlier attempt, last year’s A.B. 2509, was shelved but spurred further discussions among representatives of the California Bicycle Coalition and the California Association of Bicycle Organizations, who came up with this better, clearer rewording.

Another big-news bill Masoner mentions is A.B. 1103, which would allow cyclists to legally treat stop signs as yield signs. The bill has bipartisan support and several co-authors, including Assemblymembers Ting, Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

This subject gets a lot of hysterical pushback from people who can’t recognize that some laws written for cars don’t make sense for bicycle riders. Let’s hope they read the bill before reacting. The current wording of the bill would authorize

a person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign, after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way, to cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping, unless safety considerations require otherwise.

It would also require a bicycle rider to signal an intention to turn, a reasonable and wise practice.

Also, two other bills remove sunset dates from earlier laws that exempt bicycle plans from CEQA review (A.B. 1218) and require traffic lights to be able to detect bicycles and motorcycles (S.B. 672).

  • ejf456

    You can argue around this topic until you are blue in the face, but it comes down to one issue, one point. AB-1103 is a regressive bill when it comes to traffic safety. IT’S NOT SAFE.

  • ejf456

    AB 1103 is one of the worst bills that could be introduced at this time. The chief problem is that currenly too many cyclists operate their vehicles in a reckless fashion on our streets and roads as it is now. This conduct puts everyone at risk and cyclists have no more special rights to be exempt from traffic laws than pedestrians, scooters, and motorcycles. What makes this bill specifically bad is that it gives license to cyclists to operate in an unsafe manner and the litigate when their behaviour creates a problem or injury. Cyclists need to stop crying that they are entitled to special treatment on California roads, grow up and operate your bikes as equals with the rest of us, not children that every one else has to be careful of and make exceptions for. I’ve ridden a motorcycle for years around car drivers, I know all too well the risks just associated with simple physics. I’m not asking others to treat me special. Neither should any adult on a bicycle.

  • MJ

    Bad idea. won’t work. Has died everywhere else in the country except in Idaho because it’s dangerous. 1 road, all rules should apply to everyone.

  • snipelee

    The cyclonazis here in Napa and Sonoma Counties choose the most dangerous roads possible to “take the lane”. Idiots ride on Mark West Springs road during commute hours. Morons blowing through Silverado Trail and Deer Park Road every day. Clueless clowns biking over Mt. St. Helena on Hwy 29 – in the rain – at dusk. Fortunately – my truck has extended mirrors…

    • djconnel

      I think the counterpoint is drivers on these roads are violating the fundamental speed law, given cyclists have a right to be there. And if your view is “might makes right” please spare that crap for Breitbart.

  • Areyou Solame

    I cycle and I’m 100% against this! Getting on a bike requires that you understand you are not a car. Get over it. You are going to have to start from a dead stop (after curtailing your momentum) when you share the road and road rules with cars and pedestrians.

    IF cyclists were not already in the habit of just blowing through stop signs without ANY regard for the cars/trucks/pedestrians who are all waiting for “their turn” then this might have some support from me.

    HOWEVER, all I ever see is bike riders not wanting to curtail their momentum and they just blindly go through 4-way stops at full speed without any regard for the cars/trucks/pedestrians who were already there beforehand. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a cyclist (or two) who had no regard or concern for MY safety. I live in a hilly area and they just come blazing down the hill at full speed and expect everyone else to stop for them.

    The bill should require licensing, insurance and the requirement that the cyclist can not sue the driver/pedestrian in the event of an accident. Why? Because this whole law seems to hinge on the bicylists evaluation of the safety of the current situation, but doesn’t place any responsibility on them if their evaluation is in error. I have not seen much quality evaluation from the cyclists in my area.

    If the bicyclists’ evaluation of whether or not “conditions are safe” turns out to be wrong and I hit them and then get sued, then I’m not on board with this. Who is going to pay to fix MY car if they’re at fault? What if I was a pedestrian, pushing a baby stroller and have resulting medical bills from being run over by an unsafe, uncaring cyclist? Not to mention having to live with the visuals/memories of having hit someone! I don’t need that.

    I had a bicyclist hit my car (I was stopped at a stop sign) a few years ago. He was on the wrong side of the road, going the wrong way and hit the front panel & hood of my car. He left his bike and ran away saying “no brakes, no brakes.” I was left traumatized, had to work hard to get the bike unmerged from my cars wheel-well, and had to pay to get the damaged panels repaired. AND I WAS NOT AT FAULT! I suppose he was illegal or he wouldn’t have run away like that, but that’s a different problem.

    Since cyclists typically don’t obey the current laws in place, I don’t expect them to obey the “when conditions are safe” aspect of this law either.

    • djconnel

      Please calm down. The law does nothing to allow cyclists to “blow stop signs.” If you read and understand the bill, you’ll see it still places a substantial burden of safety on the cyclists.

      And if all cyclists blow the stop signs anyway, then it changes nothing: the cyclists will still be illegally blowing stop signs. So relax. Worry about things which make a difference.

    • RedMercury

      Actually, everybody loves to mention the “Idaho Stop Law.” But nobody mentions the Idaho Yield Law.

      The important sentence is at the end:

      […] if a driver is involved in a collision with a vehicle in the intersection or junction of highways, after driving past a yield sign without stopping, the collision shall be deemed prima facie evidence of his failure to yield right-of-way.

      In other words, if you didn’t stop and you’re involved in an accident, it’s because you didn’t yield the right of way. It doesn’t matter how “vulnerable” you are or that you happened to take the worst of the collision. It’s your fault because you didn’t yield.

      Include that in AB 1103 and I’m all for it. Solves that whole question of who’s at fault right there. And it ties in nicely with what cyclists keep saying: “If we run a stop sign, the only life we’re risking is our own!” So, great, if you want to take the risk, go for it! More power to you! But if something bad happens, you’re also responsible. You decide whether the risk is worth it. In some cases, it will be–a quiet residential street with good sight lines and no visible cars. In other cases, like a crowded city street with tall buildings that block your view, it won’t be..

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  • relentlesscactus

    AB 1103 – Awesome!!!!!!! Since 90% of bicycles do this anyway, it allows police to focus on the idiots who just blow through stop signs blindly.

    Question: Does it also allow for proceeding through a red signal when no cars are anywhere in sight? I believe this is part of the Idaho Stop law. This is especially necessary when you are stuck in a left turn lane and the light isn’t picking up a bicycle and remains red.

    • Prinzrob

      AB 1103 only refers to stop signs and not to traffic signals. You can read the full text of the bill online here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1103

    • xplosneer

      This happens all the time to me.
      Supposedly CalTrans standards said all signal loops must detect bikes, back in 2013 or something…

    • djconnel

      If the signal isn’t picking up cyclists then it’s malfunctioning and you can go through. At least that’s my story.

  • Mouse on a Wheel

    AB 694 needs to either add avoiding “debris or other hazardous conditions” to the list of exceptions or reference the reasons to leave a bike lane in section 21028. As it is it states that you have to ride in a bike lane unless passing, turning left, or approaching a right-turn location. This conflicts with section 21028, which has the *really important* hazardous conditions exception.

    • djconnel

      Do you mean 21208?

      Very good point on the conflict with 21208.

      Note there is “When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it hazardous to continue along the right-hand edge of the lane.” However, this exception needs to include “or bike lane “. Perhaps this was an oversight.

  • bobfuss

    “This bill validates the common ‘vehicular cycling’ practice of ‘taking the lane”.

    Not really. The revised wording still requires that “the cyclist must stay far enough right to allow faster traffic to pass, assuming no hazards” which is trivially different from the current requirement.

    And that is really for the safety of the cyclist. If a vehicle has to move too far over to the left to pass, then it may have to quickly decide whether to hit a vehicle head-on or side-swipe a cyclist. Not a good position to be in.

    • Corvus Corax

      Here’s RichLL doing his broken record act. YAWN!

      • bobfuss

        And yet you cannot refute me, and so resort to stalking, insults and speculation.

        • Corvus Corax

          The very article refutes you. Poor reading comprehension, RichLL.

          Couldn’t help but notice that you couldn’t refute me when I proved that you lie:

          You wrote:
          It must feel good to finally admit that it was you who managed to
          find the free time to engage in that particular form of stalking, as
          Rich accused you of the time and that you feebly attempted to deny.
          But the only lie is and was yours.

          I replied:
          Oh, Ritchie. Those of us who know you know that your idea of truth
          is whatever is convenient for you to say to stir up the animosity you so crave. And you often get away with it. But this time you are hoist by your own petard because there is an accessible record of your earlier posts, proving that you are lying in the above post. At NO POINT did you accuse me of being the author of the wonderful
          RichLLCommentaryTrack; you accused John Murphy. So at NO POINT did I ‘feebly’ attempt to deny anything. The only lie was, and is, YOURS.

          I would be proud to admit that I was clever enough to have been RichLLCommentaryTrack if it were true.

          Here is a transcript of your posts accusing John Murphy of stalking you as RichLLCommentaryTrack. And lest you want to claim that I am making this up, here is a link to those posts on the Disqus site. Go ahead, accuse THEM of making it up.

          https://disqus.com/home/discus

          RichLL (to) murphstahoe
          No, murph, you manage to lose the game all on your own, and mostly by pretending to ignore me and then inventing stalker accounts to hound me,
          Too bad i am onto you huh?

          RichLL (to) murphstahoe
          Murph, since you now only post to discuss me, you are the troll. Why the obsession? I comment on the topic and you comment on me.

          RichLL (to) RichLL Commentary Track
          Dude, everyone here knows you are John Murphy, easily the most obsessive troll here.
          But I love the attention so keep it up.

          • bobfuss

            Yet another post obsessing about me. You prove my point.

          • Corvus Corax

            And yet you cannot refute me.

    • Dave Snyder

      I wrote that language. The “allow faster traffic to pass” requirement ONLY applies when the lane is wide enough to safely share. Yes, it’s not at all different than the current requirement. It’s just that the current requirement to ride “as far to the right as practicable” almost never applies due to the exceptions so we’re putting the normal situation first so that the law is not so misleading.

      • bobfuss

        Except that part of what makes the lane “wide enough to safely share” is the cyclist’s location in that lane. so it’s a circular definition. Most lanes are safe for faster traffic to pass as long as the slower traffic follows the law and keeps right. Indeed, if 5 vehicles are behind you then the law requires you to pull over.

        • snipelee

          “Indeed, if 5 vehicles are behind you then the law requires you to pull over.”. Except that if you read this particular law – there are no penalties for non-compliance. And the reason there are no penalties is that almost exclusively the violators are operating off-road equipment (farm tractors, etc) or are bicyclists. You cannot cite someone who doesn’t have an operators license – all the more reason to require licenses and insurance for bicycles and riders. Visible registration tag on everything using the roads so that the offenders can be reported.

      • djconnel

        THANK YOU DAVE! Very nice work.

  • shamelessly

    I got a lecture while riding my bicycle from a CHP motorcycle officer while we were both moving in a construction zone near my home in SF several years ago. There were two full lanes plus a bike lane, and I had taken the left lane because I was making a left turn at the end of the block. The officer still seemed to think I should be in the bike lane until the intersection, but eventually drove off after his lecture. Nothing like forcibly distracting road users with poor advice to make streets safer.

    • bobfuss

      Technically you were not breaking any law, which is why you didn’t get a ticket. However, if there is a bike lane then drivers will reasonably expect you to use it. Therefore it can be more dangerous to ride in the regular lanes, and the advice you got was intended for your safety and not because you broke the law.

      • shamelessly

        It was also from a motorcycle rider who had clearly never tried to move two lanes over on a bicycle in heavy traffic. His advice was ludicrous.

    • Areyou Solame

      maybe he expected you to stop at the intersection and walk your bike across the street when the light was green, and then cross again (turn left) and then resume your ride. Sounds safer.

      • djconnel

        And safest of all is if everyone, pedestrians cyclists and drivers, just stayed home. Safety isn’t the only motive. Getting to a destination in a timely fashion obviously also matters. Putting the full burden of safety on the cyclists would violate the city’s transit first policy, as well as state law allowing cycling on the roadways with few exceptions.

        • RedMercury

          Wait a second. I hear from cyclists all the time that “safety is our utmost concern” and “we just want to get home alive!” But, I suppose, if it’s inconvenient for a cyclist, well, they shouldn’t have to do it, even if it is safer. Your safety is everyone else’s responsibility–you should be able to do whatever you want and if something bad happens, it’s someone else’s fault.

          Socialized risk, private reward. You must work for a bank.

          Also, if you think about it, you’re probably going to be faster if you do what Areyou suggests. Granted, it depends on the intersection.

          Assuming a simple four-way intersection with a left turn lane, it’s probably quicker for you to go through the green than to wait to turn left. If it’s a protected left turn with a signal, you’ll have to wait for the rest of the green light, then the red light in the other direction, before you can proceed. If you go through the green, stop on the other side of the street, you just have to wait for the green.

          I do this all the time. It’s much safer and more efficient than trying to get across a couple of lanes to make a left turn.

  • xplosneer

    I want 1103 to pass but I fear the hysterics will win out because I don’t think the language is specific enough yet.

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  • Rachel H

    AB 1103 sounds great! Thank you Assemblymembers Ting, Obernolte, Bloom, Chavez, and Kiley, and Senator Wiener .

    Cyclists legally reating treat stop signs as yield signs fits the reality of cycling: Most of us already go so slow that we can readily see cars and pedestrians, and can certainly stop as needed. AB 1103 would allow cyclists to better participate in the overall traffic flow. From what I’ve read, faithful adherence to this kind of law does not reduce street safety.

    I already cringe when I see other cyclists flaunt the existing law (full stop at stop signs). If AB 1103 passes, it becomes all the more important for cyclists to encourage our community to cycle safely and follow laws, as we expect car drivers to do.

  • At present, AB 694 does absolutely nothing useful. All it does is conflate a little bit of CVC 21208 into CVC 21202 while retaining the language allowing subjectivity that is the root of the problem with the current laws. The enduring problem is that the LEO (and the public in general) interpret 21202 to mean that bicyclists essentially have to ride in the gutter if no bike lane is present and by leaving language that allows discretion for lanes “wide enough to share”, we’re back at square one. Furthermore, both CVC 21202 and CVC 21208 already have explicit exceptions for making left turns, avoiding RTO lanes, debris, and overtaking, so none of that needed to be spelled out. Unless they’re willing to put down a concrete number for a “wide enough” lane (i.e. more than 14 feet), then Ting might as well pack this one up and go home.

    • D G Spencer Ludgate

      Personally, I would like to see both CVC 21202 and CVC 21208 repealed. This is the best we may get with the car-centric CHP.

    • xplosneer

      I’ve been thinking a guilty-until-proven-innocent and forced payment for time wasted if the cops lose would be an effective deterrent…

    • Dave Snyder

      Marven, there’s no chance of specifying 14 feet as the safe width and getting the bill to pass. Yes this preserves ambiguity, but I think it’s important to eliminate the misleading order of the language that puts the ride-to-the-right requirement first and the exceptions second. This puts the normal situation (the exceptions) first.

    • djconnel

      Without the 3-foot passing law this would be a greater concern. But since the 3-foot passing law does (to some degree) require a 3-foot margin for passing, unless that margin can be provided while passing within the lane if the cyclist is fully within the roadway but on the right hand side, then there’s no room. Specifying this as 14 feet may be appropriate for typical cars but for a motorcyclist it would be over-restrictive. And for wider cars 14 feet may not be enough.

      The huge improvement with AB694 is that if there’s no cars being impeded (I think in the age of auto-driving cars, “cars” and not “drivers” is the appropriate term), then there’s no basis, even remote, for citing the cyclist. Under 21202A that case can also be made but it requires defining “the speed of traffic at that time”, which doesn’t tend to work well with CHP or San Mateo County Sheriffs, for example. The language here shifts the default from riding to the right (with exceptions) to riding in the right-most lane (with exceptions). This is a huge improvement given realistic assessment of status quo.

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