Bike lanes exist to accommodate bicyclists who have just as much right to use the road as motorists and to be safe when doing so. While bike lanes serve to separate different types of traffic, it does not entirely change the fact that bicycles and motor vehicles must share the road.
As a bicyclist, it is important for you to understand when a car can legally enter the bike lane so that you can better protect yourself on the road or take appropriate legal action if a driver causes you injury.
When does the law allow cars to use a bike lane?
The California Vehicle Code outlines a list of circumstances under which an individual may drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane, which includes:
- Parking where permitted
- Entering or leaving the roadway, such as to or from a parking lot or residential driveway
- Preparing for a turn at an upcoming intersection
Keep in mind that a motorist preparing to turn at an upcoming intersection may only enter a bicycle lane at a maximum of 200 feet away from that intersection.
What are the dangers of a car being in a bike lane?
Though bicycles and motor vehicles often share lanes in circumstances where no bike lane is present, it is extremely dangerous for cars to enter a designated bike lane. Bicyclists and other motorists expect that only bicycles will occupy the bike lane, and the unexpected realization of a vehicle being in the bike lane creates a dangerous situation that is difficult to react to.
The general rule of thumb is that cars may only enter a bike lane when they are exiting the road entirely. Any other instance of a car proceeding through a bike lane is dangerous and illegal.