Will California bicyclists receive tickets for slowing traffic?

September 22, 2014

bicycles-70aAs a new law takes effect requiring motorists to take precautions as they pass bicyclists on the road, some drivers are wondering whether bicycle-induced traffic pileups will become more common.

The new law that took effect last week allows officers to cite drivers who come within three feet of bicyclists when passing them on the road. But, a California law is already on the books that allows officers to cite drivers on two-lane highways who do not pull over when a line of five or more vehicles assembles behind them.

The mandate applies to bicyclists, as well as to motorists.


From CA Driver’s Handbook:


Bicycles in Travel Lanes: When passing a bicyclist in the travel lane, you should allow at least three feet between your vehicle and the bicyclist, unless doing so would cause a hazard. In these cases, slow down and pass the bicyclist when it is safe to do so.

Bicyclists may occupy the center of the lane when conditions such as a narrow lane or road hazard make it unsafe to ride in a position that may provide room for a vehicle to

pass. With any slow-moving vehicle or bicycle, drivers should follow at a safe distance. When it is safe, the bicyclists should move to a position that allows vehicles to pass.

Remember, bicyclists are entitled to share the road with other drivers. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers. Respect their right-of-way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with other drivers.


So what exactly does a “thumbs-down” mean here? You don’t believe in following the California law? You don’t believe in the legal rights of bicyclists? You don’t believe in the California Driver’s Handbook? Perhaps these are bigger issues. The friction here has to do with people that do not respect the law, think they are better than bicyclists, and are NOT concerned that every year 100 bicyclists are killed. Idiots.


No it has to do with the fact that a lot of cyclists do not know the laws either and I speak as a pedestrian, cyclist, and a motorist. It is the fact that many bicyclists think they are better than motorists which is how you came off with your snoody post.

Sharing the road means cyclists have to obey laws too and I saw two articles in my search whining about having to stop at stop signs. Well guess what you have to stop at them too. You as well are not to block cars from making right had turns yet cyclists do. Do you know how to make hand signals? Most do not. Do you know the two ways to make a left hand turn? You should you copy and pasted from the DMV handbook.

When you share the road you are a vehicle. You are not a pedestrian. I have been hit several times as a pedestrian by a cyclist.

The law should read BICYCLISTS as well have to maintain 3 feet distances from cars yet many just swoop in and ride in your blind spots.

Maybe to be bicyclists we need to have a written test and a riding test just like cars need to do.


It sure is evident there is a lot of animosity by automobile drivers with bicyclists. Scary. I guarantee you most of us bicyclists would not want to do anything to make someone driving a 4,000 pound vehicle at 40 to 50 miles an hour mad. Skilled bicyclists are aware of their surroundings and have the ability to hug the shoulder. Less skilled riders who are just getting into the sport might not be as agile. Most drivers we encounter on the road are courteous and patient for us bicyclists. Some, however, aren’t (sadly). A few weeks ago on Corbitt Canyon, three of us were riding in an pace line. There was no oncoming vehicles and it was a straight stretch of road. A brown pickup passed us from the rear at a high speed and so close to us that his mirror was inches away from me (I was in the lead) when he passed. We were hugging the shoulder and the driver had plenty of room to give us room. When a car hits a bicyclist, the bicyclist NEVER wins.


While I know there are PLENTY of skilled, courteous and thoughtful cyclists, all it takes is a handful to go for their ride on the most traffic-impacted road at a time when traffic is heaviest (morning drive / afternoon return).

Why must someone cycle along Los Osos Valley Road (or Tank Farm) aroun 8am or 5pm? Seriously? I’m not talking people commuting, either. That is kind of a big F.U. to the drivers, sometimes.


Farm Road is another certified insane bike route.


tank Farm Road


Funny, I just rode Tank Farm this afternoon (4:15 pm?) and had no problem. The traffic is heavy and fairly fast but the shoulder is wide enough for a skilled cyclist as long as some self-entitled jerk doesn’t take out old frustrations on a new target. It would be nice if the shoulder was at least 2′ wider — especially for less experienced riders — but there are no good option for going E-W on the southern end of SLO.

JMO is correct about the differences between skilled and unskilled cyclists. Also, how do you know whether a cyclist is commuting or not during those hours. (Choice of clothing is not a reliable indicator.) And if that is the only time one has free to ride for recreation or fitness during the week (not all cyclists are retirees, students, etc.), that is when you ride.


Roy, please calm down when you drive. No bicyclist is intentionally out to make you mad. He/she is just out to enjoy a ride home or a ride for exercise. That person on the bike is someone’s husband/wife/brother/sister/father/mother/friend. If you have a friend or relative on a bicycle, don’t you hope the motorists would be considerate to them? I am not condoning improper bicycling, but there never is an excuse for someone driving a vehicle to not avoid hitting a bicyclist.


The problem is as well that many cyclists think they are pedestrians and do not understand they have to obey the laws of the road like cars do. A lot do not and think they have all these special circumstances for them.

I have been hit several times as a pedestrian by cyclists. The issue I have is the law does not say cyclists have to keep their bikes 3 feet away from cars and they typically like to ride right up on you. The often block you from making right hand turns.

As a cyclist I stopped at stop signs, red lights, I road IN the lane and put my bike to where the driver could see me. I paid attention to turning indicators and if a car was indicating a right turn I would slow to stay behind them. I would not swoop around them making them suddennly stop and wait for me.


With all the measurements being thrown around, and having never measured myself, I got up early this AM and did a little tape measure work.

The lanes on the road I live on are 11′ 2″ from the center line of the double yellow to edge of pavement. My pickup truck, which has stock mirrors, is 6′ 11″. This leaves 4′ 3″ on the right side of the truck if I am riding the center line.

Now subtract 3′ from whats left on the right side of my truck and you have 1′ 3″. I then measured the handlebars on my mountain bike and they are 23″ wide.

THERE’S 8″ MISSING FROM THIS EQUATION – which equates to not enough room!


Well that is just it. They do not literally have to share the exact same spot. Sharing the road does not simply mean riding right up along side a car. You can ride in the lane as well and this would have to happen on narrow roads like that. What needs to happen is every cyclists needs to have their time impeded each day till it frustrates the crap out of them.

I have been all three, pedestrian, cyclist, and motorists. I know the pitfalls of all three but never in any did I feel i was more entitled than the other two.





Good question.

Just this morning I observed a cyclist traveling northbound on El Camino Real in A-Town, smack dab in the middle of the slow lane of travel. He was not even close to being within the bounds of the bike lane path.

He must have read about this new law.


The reason for his choice likely depends upon where he was riding. On streets in business districts with lots of parked cars, I ride at least 3′ out from a parked car unless I can clearly see that no one is in it. Parked car doors opened into my path of travel by people who don’t look behind (or don’t do it well) are much more likely to occur than someone running me over from behind. (Of course I don’t make sudden, erratic and unsignaled weaves to do this — otherwise the danger from behind increases significantly.)

Mr. Holly

This is similar to when you pass a mail truck or garbage truck that is stopped on the road. I’m sure the police are not wasting a lot of time wanting to enforce this as it’s a stupid law that makes no sense.

What will really clear it up is when there is a headon collision and an ambulance chasing attorney claims it’s the states fault for forcing the driver to move over 3 feet from a bicycle and across the center line causing the accident. I’m sure they are all just waiting for this one. Sad part is that they will probably win.


As I said before, the only people who will benefit from this law are attorneys and undertakers.


Gov. Brown vetoed the original version of this bill largely for the reason you stated. (What a LIB!) The bill was rewritten to minimize or eliminate the likelihood of that occurring.


What is so very perplexing is that 99.9% of the cyclist are probably licensed to drive an automobile and are probably, for the most part, good drivers.



I think it is probably due to those lycra underdrawers cutting off circulation to important body organs.


LOL! Nothing worse than seeing an old fat dude or dudette in riding tights. Seriously, what is the point? It can’t possibly be aerodynamics!


Comfort — low friction where the butt meets the saddle makes a big difference. I prefer other ways of dealing with it but I understand it.


I’ve been thinking this one over since it became law. Lanes seem to be about 15 feet wide. My vehicle seems to be 5 or 6 feet wide. That seems to leave me about 6 feet to play with. So then we factor in that 3 foot buffer for the law and I’ve still got 3 feet for “You or I” to mess with.

I don’t ride a bicycle these days but, it sure seems like we’re making quite a deal out of what you should be doing to begin with on BOTH sides of that white line!

C’mon people, lets play nice for once!

Ted Slanders


To be quite honest, I am “stunned” with your response! As if we all live in nirvana where all moving vehicles upon any highway are the same size as given in your erroneous example. Lest we forget about Hummers, large trucks, Fed Ex and UPS trucks, large city trucks, and oversized Detroit iron, Busses, SUV’s, the list goes on!

As I stated earlier in this thread, it is the “Timmy Ten Speeds” that are not to take their laissez faire attitude by dangerously riding side-by-side in pairs or more in a SINGLE BIKE LANE, running stop signs and red signals, and acting like because they’re vulnerable, we’re suppose to bend over backwards for them by putting the motor vehicle and ourselves in possible danger!

It is a big deal when bicyclists use roads that were built for the automobile!


You have some legitimate complaints but keep in mind that

1) not all cyclists are the same and you need to direct your ire at the specific ones who deserve it not anyone astride a bike

2) those who do ride correctly do not attract near the attention that those who don’t attract. This creates a mis-perception by many people of the proportion of cyclists who ride irresponsibly. (Much like the relatively few gun violence incidents tend to make people think that most gun owners are “loose cannons.) I’m betting that includes you.


I understand his point because every day I see cyclists doing what he says they are doing. I as well see pedestrians just step off the curb thinking they have the right of way and not knowing if that car can stop in time. It becomes a sense of entitlement in the city I live in. And I am talking in the dark when just a block away is a crosswalk at a lighted street crossing.

I think most cyclists do not understand that the laws of the road apply to them as well as the ones I see in my city act like they are pedestrians.

We do not require a written test or a riding test to ride a bike in california. Maybe we should. Just like cars have to.

I am not excusing motorists but I would like to see more cyclists get tickets.


They are actually 11-12′ wide…which STILL gives 3′ if the cyclists would stay on or to the right of the edge line.


2 words – Rural Roads. Sometimes the 3 feet is not available, particularly if cyclists are in the travel lane.

This law is yet another fine example of legislators trying to regulate common sense. The intent is control, and revenue not safety.

With cameras everywhere, if our governments stay on the current regulatory path, we’ll all be getting multiple citations per week in the mail for laws that we aren’t even aware that we broke.

Stop the madness!


They are required to ride as close to the right edge as possible, which, if assuming the lane is 11′ wide, STILL gives 3′ for 98% of all vehicles that pass them. This is true even with NO shoulder, 3′ or otherwise.


11′ is standard lane width, but not actual lane width of many of our rural roads. Have you ever ridden your bike on Orcutt Rd, Prefumo Canyon, Ormonde Rd off Price Canyon?

The theory is good. In practice, however….


highway one through BigSur is an official bike route for the certified insane



I can almost agree with you here. The few times I have ridden it have been either off-season, early in the morning or both. The biggest danger comes from people who think they need to average at least 45 MPH in their vehicles on this route that is primarily a Scenic Drive. The second is from people operating RVs/towing trailers who forget how much wider their vehicle is than the ones they normally drive.


in competition for lane space with acrophobic winnebago drivers from plains states ,mercy


12′ is standard. the roads you mention are 10.5-11. Even with a 10.5′ lane, if the cyclists stays where he/she is supposed to, and the average car passing is 6′ wide, there is still plenty of room to pass and stay in your lane. The problem is that cyclists never stay where they are supposed to.


Exactly, which is why the law is asinine.


Part of the problem is that you are making a broad generalization (“never”) without evidence to justify it. The other problem is that you may not have the correct idea of where cyclists “are supposed to be” in some circumstances.


I know exactly what they mean. Cyclists often swoop around cars and as well block cars from making right hand turns. Same DMV handbook linked way above does say you have to stop at stop signs and not block cars from making right hand turns.

It should not just be cars but bicyclists need to maintain that 3 foot distance. Mind you I have been both a motorist and cyclist as well as a pedestrian being hit several times by a cyclist.

As a cyclists and a pedestrian do you know where I put myself? In the eyesight of the motorist or I do not go. I let them go and I follow safely behind them.


HA! Try Huasna Road.


I ride all of these roads and many similar ones in South County — with the exception of Prefumo Canyon — probably twice per month. The lightly traveled ones like Ormonde are actually pleasant because there is rarely a situation where cars can’t pass safely despite their narrowness. Making a habit of road awareness and reasonable bike handling skills make sharing the road reasonably safe and reasonably smooth — even in heavier traffic.


The law says “practicable” not “possible.” It was phrased that way at the request of cyclists who understand all too well that shoulders can be poorly designed, poorly maintained or full of debris. It is not reasonable to expect them to ride there when those conditions exist.


Southbound Hwy 227 at the beginning of the climb to the top of the ridge (past Cold Canyon) is a prime example. What looks like a 6′-8′ shoulder has a steep side slope, rough surface and sometimes is covered with leaves and branches. Try driving with your left wheel well onto it at moderate speed and you’ll see what I mean.


Better get out your tape measure. Most states require 11 foot lanes. My RV is 8.5 feet wide. That leaves 2.5 feet before the fog line. So, even if the bicyclist is to the right of the fog line, I still can not legally pass. I can just see it now. The bicyclist is riding well to the right of the fog line until traffic approaches and then darts to the left causing the motorist to lock up or swerve into oncoming traffic so as not to encroach into his 3 feet of protection.


I will take the ticket.