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Bill to Clarify Bike Riders’ Right to Full Lane Withdrawn

Bikes parked in front of the California State Capitol building in Sacramento

The California Bicycle Coalition, faced with opposition from AAA and others, has decided to hold off on its efforts to clear up California Vehicle Code language about when bicycle riders are allowed to "take the lane."

The law, as currently written, exempts bike riders from hugging the right side of the road in lanes that are “too narrow to share,” among other specified exemptions. CalBike wanted to focus on that particular exemption, to clarify that people on bikes can move away from the right edge when the lane isn't wide enough to share. It's not really a change, per se, but it still ran into opposition.

No official legislative analysis of A.B. 697 was posted, but the auto club made clear it would not support the bill, and the head of the Assembly Transportation Committee, Chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), has little interest in the topic.

In a written statement, CalBike executive director Dave Snyder said that the bill would simply have "reflected changes adopted in several other states as recommended by the Rules of the Road committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices."

"The sense of entitlement people have when they get in their cars is well represented in Sacramento," he wrote.

Motorists’ lobbyists have made it clear that it’s more important that people on bikes think they have to be out of the way of cars than they understand their right to position themselves safely in the travel lane.

With the support of our author Assemblymember Phil Ting, we are working to educate policymakers and lobbyists about how dangerous that attitude is. Throughout 2019, we will hold meetings and conferences to gain support for clarification of the law. Ting wants to address this issue as part of a comprehensive review of Vehicle Code provisions as they relate to operation of bicycles and propose a slate of changes based on best practices from around the country.

We look forward to working with Assemblymember Ting and other policy makers as we work to update California’s Vehicle Code to best promote safety for all road users.

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