I’m sorry for slowing you down.
Legally speaking, California gives bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities to the roadway as motor vehicle drivers. And there are even a few instances where bicyclists can ride out in the traffic. Which is when you saw me.
I saw some conditions ahead that—if I had continued riding on the right—were unsafe. Here are common reasons permitted by law when I may ride out in traffic:
• Bad Road Surface Cracked, uneven, or pot-holed roads are a bigger hazard to me than cars because my tires are narrower. These conditions can grab my front wheel and knock me over into oncoming traffic.
• Obstacles in My Path Many times, there are garbage cans, glass, tree branches, or boxes in my lane. It would be unsafe to not avoid these.
• Parked Cars on the Right Hitting the door of a car can seriously hurt me when I ride at 15mph or more. Cyclists have been killed from being “doored”.
• Poor Visibility When buildings or trucks block the view of cars on the right coming into traffic, moving to my left gives me more time to respond to unsafe situations that may suddenly develop.
• The Lane Was Too Narrow Vehicles can drive too close if they try to squeeze by me in one lane. Cyclists are routinely hit by mirrors this way, and the wind from a vehicle’s draft can knock me over and put me under the wheels of following vehicles.
Please remember, it is better for both of us if I ride predictably—in a straight line—in traffic than if I were to weave in and out avoiding obstacles.
Cyclists Struck in Separate Crashes in Brooklyn and Manhattan; One Dead
by Noah Kazis on April 14, 2010
One person is dead and another appears to be seriously injured after two separate car-on-bike crashes in New York City today.
Via Gothamist, a driver struck and killed a cyclist at Flatbush Avenue and Duryea Place in Ditmas Park this morning. NYPD says that the cyclist, a white male in his twenties, was traveling east on Duryea and the motorist was traveling north on Flatbush. The investigation is ongoing.
At 23rd Street and Lexington, Gothamist reports that a cab driver struck another cyclist, who witnesses say was not moving after being put in an ambulance. We have requests in with NYPD and will report additional details as they become available.
In a third incident, a commercial van struck a pedestrian at Front Street and Washington Street in Dumbo, according to Brownstoner. The pedestrian, a 32-year-old female, sustained minor head injuries. There was “no criminality involved,” according to the NYPD, although there were stop signs at the intersection for each of the two one-way streets.
Here’s a very good article via webikeeugene.org that explores some of the more egregious cases of hitting cyclists and the resultant (non-) consequences.
Here’s some of the more notable quotes…
Her [Tina Marie Baker-ed.] punishment for prioritizing 30 seconds of her life over Cayton’s safety was 30 days in jail, probation, and losing her license for 8 years. I’ve known people who’ve received 30 days in jail for shoplifting.
If Baker had killed someone driving a car instead of on a bike would the punishment have been greater? Are people on bikes considered “less human” than people in cars in the eyes of the law? Sadly, the answer is “yes.” In Oregon and most other states, hitting a cyclist is only a civil crime, not a criminal crime.
Joshua Clifton was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for felony hit-and-run, filing a false police report (he reported his car stolen after the accident), and driving with a suspended license. Tina Marie Baker was sentenced to 30 days in jail and lost her license for awhile. The lesson? Apparently the legal system doesn’t really care if you kill the cyclist or not, as long as they don’t have to look for you afterward. In terms of jail time, the punishment for hit-and-run was 91 times more severe than the punishment for killing a cyclist.
That’s right. If you are driving a car, it is not criminal to kill someone who is not in a car, and the Oregon Legislature prefers it that way. Changing this would have led to “widespread resistance” because the jails are too full. Full of shoplifters, minor drug offenders, and the occasional hit-and-run driver who didn’t know that all you have to do to get away with murder is stop and say “I just didn’t see them.”
Glendale Traffic Cops Botch Report on Fatal Bike Crash
Here’s another example of how even police officers need education in the laws regarding cycling.
In 2008, a motorist ran a stop sign and hit a cyclist (who had been riding on the sidewalk) as they crossed in the crosswalk. The cyclist died 13-months later from their injuries.
Glendale Police Det. Ashraf Mankarios gave a light charge on the driver’s actions because, “bike riding on the sidewalk is illegal” and therefore, both parties shared some of the blame 50-50.
However, California state law (section 21100) says, “21100. Local authorities may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance or resolution regarding the following matters: …Operation of bicycles… on the public sidewalks“
So, has Glendale adopted any rules or regulations regarding the operation of bicycles on public sidewalks? Why yes, they have, thank you for asking:
No person shall ride or operate a bicycle upon any public sidewalk in any business district within the city [emphasis mine--ed.] except where such sidewalk is officially designated as part of an established bicycle route. Pedestrians shall have the right-of-way on sidewalks. The prohibition in this section shall not apply to peace officers on bicycle patrol. (Ord. 5116 § 1, 1996)
Of course, the location of the incident is not a business district. Therefore, the cyclist had a right to ride on the sidewalk and cross in the crosswalk. The cyclist, at least in this case, appears legally blameless. (Cycling judgment is another matter.)
Story via Streetsblog Los Angeles.
An Illegal Bike Ban — And the Fight Against It | Bicycling Magazine
Bob Mionske (my favorite cycling advocacy author) writes another excellent article. He lays the ground-work for his article by stating a few facts. Motor vehicles are the cause the majority of deaths in accidents. (Can this possibly be refuted? Some will try.) In fact, motor vehicle operators account for 43,000 deaths each year in the U.S. in spite of our strict licensing requirements (to prove competency behind the wheel) and regulations. Cyclists, on the other hand, cause so few deaths while riding, that statistically speaking, they are responsible for 0% of the 43,000.
Also, the licensing of drivers does not give them the right to the road: it gives them the privilege. One that can be taken away by the revocation of the license. Cyclists and pedestrians, on the other hand, have an innate right to travel: they are not licensed. This right to travel cannot be taken away.
In spite of this, Black Hawk, Colorado, home to several casinos, voted to ban bicycles from the roads in its city limits. According to City Manager, Mike Copp, they banned bikes for safety reasons, even though there have been no incidents between cyclists and drivers in Black Hawk. The city’s argument was this: the streets are narrow, there is alot of motor vehicle traffic, and there’s really not room for cyclists. So for their own safety, the city decided to not allow them to ride there.
So, Mionske asks,
If safety was the goal, one might ask if it doesn’t make more sense to “promote safety” by banning motor vehicles? After all, they are the source of the problem. But of course, casino patrons arrive by motor vehicle, and casinos have kept the city alive, so banning motor vehicles wouldn’t do. But what about addressing infrastructure problems? What about requiring motorists to share road space with cyclists? What about requiring motorists to safely operate their vehicles while sharing the roads?
Mionske continues further with his article, detailing how Black Hawk is flouting state law, and upcoming efforts to curb it, so definitely read the whole article.