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California Bicycle Lane Laws

The California Vehicle Code generally provides that bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. If the bicyclist is traveling at the speed of traffic, then they may ride anywhere. However, California Vehicle Code §21208 states that if the bicycle is traveling slower than the flow of traffic, the designated bike lane must be used, except to overtake another vehicle or pedestrian traveling in the bike lane. In addition, the bicyclist must travel on the right side of the roadway (in the direction of traffic), with minimal exceptions, particularly if making a left turn or passing.

Motorists (drivers and automobiles) are also prohibited from driving a vehicle in a bike lane, except under limited circumstances:

1. To park a vehicle;
2. To enter or leave the roadway;
3. To prepare for a turn at an intersection.

The problems with the Vehicle Code is the overlapping use of bicycle lanes by both the automobile driver and bicyclist. California has implemented the “Three Feet for Safety Act” which generally states that the bicyclist has the right of way in the bike lane, and any entry into, overtaking, or passing of the bicyclist must be done by the motorist at a safe distance that does not interfere with the operation of the bicycle . . . a minimum of three feet taking into consideration traffic conditions, visibility, size and speed of vehicles.

Essentially, both bicyclist and motorists must be aware of the conditions to avoid injury and damages. Bicyclists, beware of motorists!

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