Bill to Clarify Bike Riders’ Right to Full Lane Withdrawn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.


22 thoughts on Bill to Clarify Bike Riders’ Right to Full Lane Withdrawn

  1. I hug the shoulder when riding my bicycle just as I learned from motor vehicles hugging the shoulder when making a turn.

  2. And, by the way, in practice, I and almost every cyclist I know moves over regularly even when not required, just to be polite.

  3. That’s the main problem we’re trying to address. People are safest on bikes when they ride in the middle of the lane, where they’re more visible to everyone and more free to maneuver as necessary. That should be the default. And they should be required to move over when it’s safe to do so. Conveniently, that’s what the law currently says, but so badly that people misunderstand it.

  4. Many years ago, AAA sponsored a bike safety section. That sponsorship expired ages ago and to my knowledge that section is currently not published. Can you send me a private message with a link to the page you’re referring to?

  5. Hi Stephen, you wrote:
    “The person in SF whose opening door caused Tess Rothstein to swerve into path of a truck and get killed isn’t even given a citation.”

    How do you know the driver never received a citation?

  6. “Your proposal is to shift the burden from the lawbreakers onto the people they hurt. That’s asinine.”

    Huh? James never said such a thing.

  7. @James – There is already a law against opening doors into traffic, routinely ignored. Your proposal is to shift the burden from the lawbreakers onto the people they hurt. That’s asinine.

  8. Also, just like inexperienced cyclists don’t understand how dangerous the doorzone is, I bet most drivers don’t either. So when a cyclist is giving wide berth to the doorzone, drivers can get mad that the cyclist isn’t off to the side enough because they don’t know why (namely trying not to be killed or maimed). So I think drivers need to be educated about the doorzone for a couple reasons.

  9. Taking the lane is important but many cyclists are fearful of doing so. We also need legislation making ‘dooring’ a misdemeanor. it’s now only an infraction and never enforced as far as I know. The person in SF whose opening door caused Tess Rothstein to swerve into path of a truck and get killed isn’t even given a citation. As for AAA, there are two organizations in CA. The SoCal AAA policy person helped get ‘Dutch Reach’ information into their driver handbook. As far as I can tell, the AA in N CA has not been helpful. Bike safety advocates need to put pressure on both AAA sections. While losing AAA support isn’t a reason to not continue to push a bill, ultimately the bill’s author (Phil Ting) decides what to carry forward based on whether they think it can pass. AAA is unfortunately very influential in Sacramento.

  10. The three feet is for being passed only. A violation of that law is only an infraction and the fine is absurdly low. Three feet is pretty scary at high speeds too or by vehicles with lots of wind blast.

    It’s seldom “reasonable” to hug the shoulder. A lot of bike crashes, especially with cars occur when bikes are operated in that area whether its a shoulder, a bike lane, or nothing.. Edge riding crashes are causes either by being overlooked or not seen period during passing, turning, or crossing maneuvers.

    Besides, few roads have shoulders and shoulders are recovery areas – not areas that are a part of the roadway nor are designed for vehicular operation.

  11. Opening car doors should qualify as a condition a bicyclist can avoid under the following part of the current law.

    “(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”

  12. I’d like to see language added to this section of the vehicle code that specifically refers to riding far enough from parked cars to avoid a suddenly and negligently opened door. Everyday I encounter situations where I would collide with a negligently opened door if I rode inches from parked cars as the vast majority of cyclists do. To thoughtless drivers like Multikdizzle endangering myself in this manner might seem to be “reasonable.” It isn’t and I should not be bullied into maximizing my expose to one of the most common types of collisions.

  13. Does Calbike rely on AAA for some funding? Why else do they have a AAA sponsored riding tips section that falls way short of what is needed to help riders navigate california’s hostile roads.

  14. Bicyclists already have a 3-foot buffer enshrined by law.

    I see little need to incentivize bicyclists not to to hug the shoulder when reasonable.

Comments are closed.


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