In California, roads welcome both drivers and bicyclists. However, misunderstandings about how the two groups interact can create unnecessary tension and, sometimes, even dangerous situations. According to the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles, car crashes injure over 10,000 cyclists each year across the state. For the best road safety, both bicyclists and drivers need to understand their responsibilities.
However, there are many misconceptions about the rules and regulations regarding bicyclists sharing the road with drivers. Clarifying these misconceptions can help foster safer interactions between all road users.
Misconception #1: Bicyclists should always ride on the sidewalk
California vehicle code section 21206 says that the local government of each city can state whether or not bicyclists can ride on the sidewalk. In many areas, expectations require bicyclists to ride in the street and obey the same laws as motorists. Riding on the sidewalk can pose risks to pedestrians as well.
Misconception #2: Bicyclists are not entitled to a full lane
Many drivers believe that bicyclists must always stay to the far right of the road. But in reality, California law permits bicyclists to occupy a full lane when the lane width does not safely accommodate both a bicycle and a vehicle side by side.
Misconception #3: Bicyclists do not need to follow the same traffic laws as drivers
California law requires bicyclists on roads to follow the same traffic laws as drivers. This includes obligations such as stopping at stop signs and traffic lights, signaling turns and riding with traffic, not against it.
Misconception #4: Cars always have the right of way
Cars do not automatically receive the right of way. The determining factor depends on the situation, not the type of vehicle. For instance, at an intersection with stop signs, the vehicle (including a bicycle) that arrives first has the right of way.
Misconceptions about sharing the road between bicyclists and drivers in California can create unsafe conditions for all road users. Remember, bicyclists are not merely obstacles to navigate around, but fellow travelers deserving of respect and consideration. Everyone needs to do their part to ensure a safe and harmonious road environment.