Here's an excerpt from the CA code:
Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway...except when passing, turning left, avoiding obstructions. - Note: exceptions shortened
Why? Why are the exceptions shortened? Please answer this question. Why does everyone just skim the exceptions, as if they're not important? Please tell me. I'm really anxious to know. Not to put you on the spot, but if you can explain why you essentially dismissed their importance, maybe I'll understand why so many others seem to do that too. So, please
answer this question.
Anyway, to the contrary, we should take a CLOSE look at ALL the exceptions. Any time just one of them applies, bicyclists are NOT required to "ride as close practicable to the right". If you consider all of the exceptions, you'll be hard pressed to find any place in an urban, suburban or rural setting in which at least one of the exceptions doesn't apply, except along long stretches of roads with no intersections or driveways, and a wide outside lane
. That's kind of key... More on this later.
If you're riding three abreast, maybe abreast but not yielding to passing cars, riding through stops, not making clear hand signals, etc. you're in the wrong.
Not necessarily, and I'll go so far as to say probably not
. Again, more on this later.
Further, if you're doing these things and reacting to complaints by flipping off drivers, yelling, squirting water...I've seen it all...you affect the tolerance for all bikes on the road. You endanger other riders indirectly.
I'm not saying you have to be polite while some guy tries to run you over, or that these riders did any of this or anything antagonistic.
I've been hit by cars twice. I was forced off the road recently 2 miles from my house while doing the speed limit. Someone in a passing car threw a bottle of water at me last year. So, I've had my share.
I am saying we all should do what we can to be considerate and think about how your actions may affect everybody (driving or riding). It is a two-way street most of the time.
I agree with you in general here. Practically speaking, road rage normally takes some time to escalate, and either party can usually do something to prevent it from getting to the physical stage well before it's too late.
Now, let's look at those exceptions
, shall we?
21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
The first one is not really an exception, but is part of the main law. So, as long as you're moving at the "normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time
", then you have no obligation to ride "as close as practicable to the right".
So if traffic is stopped or slow, or you're on a high speed descent and can keep up, no need to keep right. Furthermore, if there is no
other same direction traffic at that time (which occurs often because traffic tends to travel in spurts), you don't have to keep right either.
The other thing is to notice the use of "practicable", which is a loaded legal term allowing for all kinds of wiggle room, within reason. So even without all of the exceptions, you're not ever required to ride as far right as possible
; only as far right as is practicable
Now let's look at the actual
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
Can anyone say "clockwise rotating paceline" in which you're constantly either keeping right, or in a state of "passing another bicycle". Either way, you're in compliance.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
No-brainer. 'Nuff said.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
Here is the biggy, in particular the bolded part. The law does not specify the actual width the lane has to be to allow for travel safely side by side, presumably because that depends on circumstances. But in general traffic cycling experts agree that a lane has to be at least 14 feet wide
to be safe for within-lane passing, othewise it is "too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.". See the article on the topic of the wide outside lane
, and read the references too if you're skeptical. One rule of thumb is that a lane wide enough for safe passing is wide enough for a 4-5' wide bike lane to be painted on the edge of it. That is, if it's not wide enough to be divided into a traffic lane and a bike lane, then it's not wide enough for safe side-by-side travel.
Have you measured any lanes lately? The vast majority of lanes in urban, suburban and are about 11 or 12 feet wide. 14-15' wide lanes are relatively rare. It may not have been the intent of the legislators who wrote that law to not require bicyclists to share most lanes, but that is the unintended effect of the reasonable wording. What they don't want is to require bicyclists to keep right in lanes in which motorists still have to encroach into the adjacent lane in order to pass, because... that's not safe
See why it's critical to NOT shorten the exceptions?
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
This one is a biggy too. On pretty much any residential street driveways are 25-100 feet apart, right? And rights turns into driveways are authorized, right? That means that when you're riding on such a street, you are constantly
"approaching a place where a right turn is authorized". Similar situation on any urban or suburban street with frequent alleys and commercial driveway entrances, etc. So, anytime you're not on such a road, you're not required to keep right.
Again, the lawmakers probably did not intend to stop requiring bicyclists from keeping right on so many roads, but that is the effect of their reasonable words. This exception is in there to prevent right hooks, because the best way to reduce (not eliminate) your chance of being right hooked is to move left out into the lane. And it's perfectly legal according to the exceptions that are SO IMPORTANT!
Too many people in general believe bicyclists belong at the curb, but at least bicyclists need to stop thinking (and riding!) this way.
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/Vehicular_cycling