Last week, we pulled our bill to simplify the rules in California Vehicle Code governing where bicyclists must ride in the traffic lane. The goal was to emphasize the right or people riding bicycles to use a full traffic lane when necessary for safety. Riding too far to the right, next to parked cars, or near the curb, exposes people on bikes to dangerous and far-too-often fatal road conditions.
Unfortunately, opposition from the powerful Automobile Club of Southern California and their allies forced us to take a step back. While all were in agreement that the law exempts cyclists from the requirement to ride “as far to the right as practicable” in lanes that are “too narrow to share,” there was no support for changing the wording of the law to focus on that exemption as we desired: giving people on bikes the right to the lane unless it’s wide enough to share. Our original proposal reflected changes adopted in several other states as recommended by the Rules of the Road Committee National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
The sense of entitlement to safety and to the streets shared by automobile drivers and the industries that serve them is palpably present in Sacramento. 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 (D-San Francisco), CalBike is 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.
CalBike and our advocate partners are looking forward to working with Assemblymember Ting and other policy makers as we work to update California’s Vehicle Code to better promote safety for all road users.