Every summer, as the temperatures rise and cyclists take to the streets en masse, more questions arise about the rules of the road.
Jim Brown, Executive Director of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, said that, generally speaking, bicycles must follow the same rules of the road as other vehicles.
“Overall, bicyclists are regarded as having the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.” Brown said.
However, he added, there are several rules that drivers or cyclists may not be aware of.
“For drivers, one rule that is not well-understood is that bicyclists have the right to ride in the middle of the lane under certain circumstances.” Brown said. “Drivers get very upset about this and sometimes honk or threaten (the cyclist).”
But it’s not just drivers who aren’t aware of the rules. Some cyclists are also guilty of neglecting to brush up on the vehicle code, Brown said.
“For bicyclists, some rules I think most people don’t fully understand is signalling your turns.” Brown said. “Sometimes that causes some confusion or conflict.”
Breaking some of these rules can prove extremely dangerous.
As with most states, California law holds that bicyclists must travel with the flow of traffic, regardless of whether they are riding in the street or a bike lane.
If a cyclist is hit when traveling against the flow of traffic, they are much more likely to be found at fault for a potential accident, as they were in violation of the vehicle code.
Not only that, but riding against the flow of traffic is incredibly dangerous, Brown said. Although it may seem safer because riders are able to see cars coming, it greatly increases the speed at which a potential impact could occur because the impact speed combines the speed of both parties.
Accidents where the bicyclist is traveling the wrong way account for seven percent of all bike collisions in Sacramento, which result in death or severe injury, according to the Vision Zero Task Force, which seeks to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries.
The most common bicycle accidents in Sacramento, however, involve turning.
“The two most common collisions are where a driver and a bicycle are approaching from opposite directions and the driver turns left across the path of the cyclist — we call that a ‘left hook,’ ” Brown said. “The other is what’s called a right hook collision, where we’re both traveling north and I (the cyclist) turn right and into (the car).”
Jim Brown, executive director for the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates
California Vehicle Codes