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On Sunday, a car driver on the wrong side of a two-lane highway in rural Yolo county crashed head-on into a bicycle rider and killed him. What was the California Highway Patrol's response? Blame the victim. The CHP says the driver of the car was just following the law, which requires a three-foot passing distance around bicycles. The driver was giving a wide berth to a  group of riders on her side of the road.

The crash occurred on County Road 19 near Woodland, where it is clearly difficult to see for any distance.
The crash occurred on County Road 19 near Woodland, where sight distance is clearly not an issue. Image: Google Maps
The crash occurred on County Road 19 near Woodland, where it is clearly difficult to see for any distance.

But somehow she failed to notice Allen Blumm on a bicycle directly in front of her in the oncoming lane. The CHP, according to the Sacramento Bee, has not filed any charges against the driver. Worse, officers said the bicycle rider himself was partly to blame because he was not riding way over on the right side of his lane.

But, as Cyclelicious points out,

California’s far right law . . . applies only in the presence of other, faster traffic traveling in the same direction. Excluding the long list of exceptions that allow cyclists to “take the lane” where necessary, the law says: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….

Also, he writes, the law requires a driver to wait until the lane is clear before passing anyone.

At the very least, the driver could (and probably should) be cited for violating CVC 21751, which requires the passing driver to wait for the oncoming lane to be “free of oncoming traffic.” We’re required to slow and wait until it is safe to pass.

It is tragic that someone was killed, and that someone else made such a terrible mistake. But it is also very bad that law enforcement is picking and choosing which laws to apply in a way that makes it clear to drivers that they have more right to the road than anyone on a bike.

Or, as Systemic Failure writes:

As in so many car-bike collisions, the police in this case found creative legal interpretations to absolve a driver of her dangerous and illegal behavior.

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