Protecting the Right to Ride

The California Bicycle Coalition seeks to enable more people to bicycle in California, for healthier, safer, and more prosperous communities for all. Our goal is to enable triple the number of bicycle trips by 2020, and we use four strategies to get there. Strategy #3 is to ensure that Californians respect the rights to the road of people on bicycles and that the laws, regulations, and legal system promote bicycling and protect those who choose to ride. The surest way to increase that respect is to increase the number of people who bike, but the rules and regulations about bikeways and roadway use are also important. Those regulations are especially important on roads with adjacent separated bikeways, sometimes called cycle tracks or protected bike lanes.

While we hope that cycle tracks class are so well designed that everybody will choose to use them in place of the mixed traffic lanes because they’re superior, we also hope that even well-designed separated bikeways overflow with cyclists into the roadway. This is one reason why it’s important that cyclists continue to enjoy the rights to the road adjacent to a protected bike lane, as is the case thanks to the Protected Bikeways Act that we sponsored.

Most planners and officials consider cycle tracks to be a kind of bike lane and part of the roadway. If the Protected Bikeways Act had not designated them as a new type of bikeway, a “class 4 cycle track”, separate from the roadway, current laws about bike lane use and roadway positioning would have compelled their use. The California Bicycle Coalition will never support mandatory use of cycle tracks, and supports repeal of the unnecessary requirements to use a bike lane and to ride “as far to the right as practicable.”

It’s important to note that the rules sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition protect cyclists’ rights to the roadway regardless of what they are popularly called. For that reason, we refer to them as protected bike lanes because studies show that’s the easiest way to describe them to the public. Police officers will sometimes write tickets for behaviors that are not against the law, like riding outside of a cycle track, or riding side-by-side or not riding in the gutter. Changing that requires education of the cops and getting many more people on bikes so that more officers and their family members are regular riders, bringing us back to our goal: attracting twice as many “non cyclists” to cycling as those who currently cycle.