MENDOCINO Co., 6/27/19 — You may have noticed some new bike lanes around the county, such as those along the north end of Willits’ Main Street, as well as an increase in bike riders now that the weather is warm. Whether or not you’re a bicyclist, here’s some more information about how to follow the laws about “sharing the road,” especially in places with bike lanes.
If you’re interested in getting more involved with local cycling, there are plenty of groups around to help you learn more about bike repair or to accompany you on group rides, including the county-wide Walk & Bike Mendocino. But even if you’re planning to stay just a driver (or passenger), here’s some helpful info from Walk & Bike Mendocino:
Bike Lane Q&A
Can I drive in the bike lane?
Generally the answer is no, you can’t drive in a bike lane per California law. Bike lanes are painted to give people on bikes a dedicated area to ride and to keep the flow of traffic moving. You can turn right through a bike lane after you’ve looked for bikes. You can access a parking spot on the other side of a bike lane after you’ve looked. A bike lane is NOT for passing slow-moving traffic.
Even though there are dedicated bike lanes the 3 feet passing law still applies. Give at least 3 feet of space and wait until it’s safe when passing a bicycle.
Why are people still riding their bikes in traffic even though we have bike lanes now?
Per the California vehicle code, a bike is a vehicle and has all the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle on the road. Sometimes a person on a bike may choose to ride with traffic. There are many factors that affect that decision- but a person on a bike may need to make a left turn, may be avoiding cars making right turns (a frequent bike-car crash scenario), or may feel invisible on the shoulder or in the bike lane. Additionally, the shoulder or bike lane may be in poor condition and filled with trash and debris.
What about people riding bikes on the sidewalk?
Bicycle safety experts recommend against riding bikes on sidewalks. People who ride on the sidewalk may be nervous about riding on the street, and in some conditions, it may in fact be safer on the sidewalk. Additionally, parents may want their children to stick to the sidewalk. As drivers and riders become more knowledgeable about the law and the bike lanes this will shift.
Riding confidently on the street with the flow of traffic makes a bicyclist visible and safe and keeps both cars and bikes moving efficiently.
Bikes on the street are annoying, why should I care?
Biking for transportation is a way to get exercise, reduce carbon emissions, save gas money, and helps with traffic and parking issues. We can share the road to make getting around easier on all of us, whether we drive or not. When streets are designed and built to accommodate the needs of all users, streets work better for all users; including drivers.
Isn’t it dangerous to ride a bike on the street?
While it may feel vulnerable to ride on the street the likelihood of an accident happening is very low. Biking is a healthy way to get around while driving poses hazards to those behind the wheel and on the street.
How can I learn more?
Walk & Bike Mendocino has classes for biking safely and confidently on the road and more information for drivers who have questions.
Walk & Bike Mendocino supports the new OTS public awareness campaign, “Go Safely, California.” To find out more about ways to go safely, visit gosafelyca.org.
Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.