Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Driving and Bicycling Concerns  title=
Driving and Bicycling Concerns
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By Robert Bernstein

Today I want to talk about driving issues. That is, issues around motorist driving habits that are illegal and cause harm to others.

I picked out these issues because I see them violated repeatedly. And they affect me personally. I have to assume people are not even aware they are doing anything wrong. I am hopeful that a little awareness will go a long way to safer, more courteous behavior.


Motorists: Are you aware that you do not have a right to open your car door if it interferes with movement of other traffic? This is especially important to bicyclists as they are often forced to ride dangerously close to car doors. Are you aware that if you hit a bicyclist with your car door you are the one who is at fault? And are you aware that you can seriously injure or even kill a bicyclist by opening a door in their path?

This is an issue for you and your passengers when opening car doors from inside. It is also an issue when you go to open your door from outside. Please LOOK first. Then WAIT until it is safe to do so.

California Vehicle Code 22517 states: "No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers."

This video shows "The Dutch Reach" method of opening your car door to be safe. The idea is to use your right hand to open the left side door.

If you don't want to do this, can you please at least look back before opening your door into traffic? On State Street I have had passengers fling their RIGHT doors open into the bike lane on their right!

Personal note: When I lived in the Bay Area I was riding my bicycle on a busy road when a car door was thrown open directly in my path. I was only traveling at about ten miles per hour or less. But there was no time to avoid a powerful impact. I was wearing a helmet and I thought I was OK except for some nasty bruises.

But the next night I woke up in the middle of the night with uncontrollable vomiting. I went to the hospital emergency room. I learned that I had a concussion.

I later told one of my co-workers about my accident. He said he had a friend who had the same thing happen in that same spot. Except when his friend fell into the street, a car ran over his leg. Things could have been worse.

I should also note that the woman who injured me was a law enforcement officer.


California residents seem reluctant to use the horn even when it really is necessary.

But many seem to think it is perfectly OK to blast the horn every time they lock their car doors. It is not OK to do this.

Are you aware how disturbing it is to passing pedestrians and bicyclists? It is also a violation of California Vehicle Code 27001. Under some circumstances it could also be a violation of California Penal Code 415 - Disturbing the Peace.

Are you aware that it is not necessary to blast your horn each time you lock your car doors? Check your car user manual or check with your mechanic or car dealer for instructions how to avoid doing so.


Are motorists aware of the proper use of turn signals? From my experience, most motorists seem to think the time to use a turn signal is AS a turn is being made. Are you aware that the turn signal is supposed to be given in ADVANCE of a lane change or of a turn?

California Vehicle Code 22108 states: Any signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

California Vehicle Code 22107 states: No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

Are you aware that these are real laws? With real penalties? With fines and points on your driving record if violated?

As a bicyclist I am especially concerned with right turning motorists cutting across my path in the bicycle lane.

Consider this situation: You are driving up State Street toward Carrillo. You want to make a right turn. There is a right turn lane ahead. When do you think you need to signal? After you are already in the right turn lane?

Are you aware that you need to signal back here?

[photo credit: Google Street View]

You are making a lane change into the right turn lane. Across the bicycle lane. Yet most motorists seem to turn on their turn signals when they are here, almost at the corner:

[photo credit: Google Street View]

It is of little value to signal at this point. Everyone already knows you are turning here. The correct, legal and courteous point to signal is before you are going to change lanes into the right turn lane.

Signaling your intention with a turn signal is mostly about letting others know what you are planning to do. Do you know what else it is for?

It is also about your own awareness. When you turn on the turn signal it lets you know that you have committed to making a turn. It reminds you that you are about to make a movement that affects others on the road.


Are you aware that motorists must leave at least a three foot space when passing a bicyclist?

California Vehicle Code 21760 specifies: "A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator."

"This section shall be known and may be cited as the Three Feet for Safety Act."

This law was originally introduced in 2006 by then-Assemblymember Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara. This, after UCSB cyclist Kendra Payne was hit by a construction truck whose driver did not stop. She died as a result.


Do you know what this traffic sign means?

Are you aware these signs are posted every few miles along Highway 101 and other California highways?

From an actual California DMV test:
This white sign means:
a)      You should slow down and move to the right lane.
b)      Stay in the right lane if you are driving more slowly than other traffic.
c)      Slower traffic must exit on the right

Do you know the answer? Yes. It is b):
Stay in the right lane if you are driving more slowly than other traffic.

This serves several important purposes. Can you guess what they might be? Have you ever seen cars driving in lock step next to each other, with cars backed up behind them? With open road ahead?

Following this rule of courtesy:
1)      Makes more efficient use of the road as it eliminates blockages
2)      Reduces road rage
3)      Increases traffic safety

Back East and in Europe motorists typically know to use the left lane for passing only. A quick flash of the headlights is a signal to a slower moving car ahead to move over. It is not an indication of road rage. It is a normal signal. And any courteous driver will kindly move over and let the faster vehicle pass.

California Vehicle Code 21654 states: "… any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a  speed less than the normal speed of traffic  moving in the same direction at such time shall  be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when  preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway."

This list is not meant to be comprehensive. It is a list I have been making for years now of the most commonly violated laws that most affect my safety. Feel free to offer your own pet peeves of motorist violations.

Note to Readers: Most of my articles have been photos and reports on local events. Most corporate news reporting is "event driven". Yet some of the most important issues facing us are not event driven. I will continue to cover events , but I plan to cover issues as well from now on.

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Ehdat Oct 02, 2018 10:28 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Great tips. As for the horn when locking the doors, not everyone has a choice. We have a VW Jetta that the horn cannot be disabled for the lock/alarm feature. Trust me i have tried. Ive read that the electronic system can be hacked, but i cant figure it out.. it annoys even me. Locking your car during late night in a quiet complex is annoying.

GeneralTree Oct 02, 2018 10:31 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Let's talk about some hazards created by cyclists. Riding doubles up with the outside rider in traffic. I see that all the time in town. Ride single file in heavy traffic areas . Cyclists not stopping for stop signs and blowing through them , something I see frequently. Cyclists riding down the middle of the road and causing faster vehicles to slow behind them and not getting over to the right. Cyclists not using appropriate hand signals when turning. Cyclists weaving in and out of traffic at red lights. Cyclists need to maintain courtesy and safety as well. This is not a comprehensive list and I'm sure I've missed a few.

leticia Oct 03, 2018 02:03 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Yes to your list of dangerous and annoying riding behaviors. . How about one I saw: a young guy riding alongside traffic on Cabrillo beach road, for a half mile that I saw without hands on handlebars, looking at cell phone, with earbuds in ears, and no helmet. Also, so many times at night on dark streets I have seen: a black bike, rider wearing dark or black clothing, no light on bike or rider, no reflector on bike, and rider not wearing a helmet. This is so dangerous and as a driver, it has me scared. Otherwise, I agree with the driver safety tips in the article. But bike riders have a safety duty also.

x01660 Oct 02, 2018 10:37 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Now as a person who rides a motorycle daily, as my main means of transportation:

* Cyclists have to obey the laws of the road as well. It gets super annoying and dangerous when:

1) Cyclists blow through stop signs and lights, a lof of times without even looking
2) Packs of cyclists ride 3 abreast down narrow roads or on the 192. Just like motorists need to share the road, so do cyclists
3) Cyclists that are talking on the phone or even texting, and not paying attention to their surroundings.

They are a major source of headache for anyone who actually drives around the streets of SB as part of their job. And a lot of these complaints go for people on skateboards as well, with the added danger of no brakes.

As for people in cars, for the love of the deity that you worship, GET OFF THE FRIGGIN' PHONE!!! Its so bad, and no one does anything about it. Heck, I saw a UPS driver, on duty, texting while he was driving! And no, you can't look at your phone at a stop light. Put it away!

At the end of the day, we all have a responsibilty to be safe on the road. I will tend towards letting the other person "get away" with it since, as a motoryclist, I'm ALWAYS at the losing end of any collision (mass wins), but getting those butt pucker moments multiple times a day, every day, due to other's carelessness gets really old.

Overall, this is a good article. I'm just feeling ranty because I just got my bike back on the road yesterday and within 20 minutes of riding, I almost got taken out by some girl driving an SUV and talking on the phone. Please pay attention, drive safe, and PUT. THE. PHONE. DOWN. Or spend 2 minutes and just pull over if its that important. I (and all motoryclists) would like to get home alive, and preferably without damaged or missing limbs or skin. :)

ginger1 Oct 02, 2018 10:39 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Thanks for trying to educate. It IS one of the first steps to Vision Zero (no more vehicle related fatalities). Enforcement of the "rules of the road" is another. That pretty much doesn't exist in our town. Note the literally thousands of drivers who run through red lights and make illegal right turns on red (without stopping and looking) or are on the phone, texting while driving. When was the last time YOU saw a police officer citing a driver for a traffic violation? But that's not all. Bicyclists riding on the sidewalk or going the wrong direction in a bike lane is a problem. Pedestrians with eyes glued to the phone while crossing the street, ignoring the crossing signal---a very poor choice. And do you drivers notice the solid white line painted on the roadway? That means "do not cross". It does not mark an extra lane for you. The broken line: ok to cross IF you look for bikes and pedestrians first.

Slow down, pay attention, respect the rules of the road. Simple stuff that will save someone's life.

a-1538502499 Oct 02, 2018 10:48 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Great article...thank you!!! Cyclists need to always pay attention because the stakes are way too high. No matter who is legally in the right when there is an accident, the cyclist ALWAYS ends up on the losing side. My simple formula for safe cycling is to assume any and all vehicles cannot see me...easy peasy! Ride safe my fellow cyclists...and may the wind be at your back.

CoastWatch Oct 02, 2018 10:58 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

As a cyclist, motorcyclist and driver of a car, I can not believe what appears to be the "ME" attitude of cyclists of late... I not talking about cyclists that actually ride single file in the bike lane, or even those riding two abreast ... No, I talking about the cyclists that are on our local backroads riding 3 or more abreast for no particular reason. I'm talking about almost wiping out an entire bike riding group on a BLIND TURN on a TWO LANE narrow backroad. Idiots. I am all for supporting cyclists, but within reason and riding more than two abreast in NOT within REASON on any road.

a-1538503452 Oct 02, 2018 11:04 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Although I certainly agree with the need for greater respect, courtesy and just plain safety for bicyclists, I agree with PitMix that to be effective, if that was the point, the article needs to be more balanced. Since Mr. Bernstein is a well-known bicyclist, bicyclists would more likely heed his recommendations for safer bicycling than will drivers at yet another bicyclist screed. Stop sign blow-throughs, sidewalk bicycling forcing pedestrians/pets to the side, lack of front lights so that a motorist can be warned of an approaching bicycle, riding in packs, riding on the left side of the bike lane while demanding 3' clearance, not wearing a safety helmet, all create hazards to bicyclists. ...That said, I love(d) bicycling but have basically given it up because of the condition of some city streets and the hostile or thoughtless attitudes of some drivers.

a-1538504638 Oct 02, 2018 11:23 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

How does the horn going off when you remotely lock your doors affect cyclists? If you're so nerve-frazzled that an occasional quick beep ruins your day, it's time to move out of the city. Sorry, but this article is pretty condescending and only decreased my admiration for the author and his usually great articles / photos. Remember - drivers aren't the only ones behaving badly on the roads!

mjp Oct 03, 2018 11:05 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Actually, these honks can be very loud. They can be particularly distressing to people with misophonia and certain ear problems. So often the people doing it wait until they are at some distance before pressing the button.

Lucky 777 Oct 02, 2018 11:34 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

I drive across town on Micheltorena daily, and if I'm behind a bicyclist it becomes a slow trudge, waiting for an opening in traffic to dart into the oncoming lane to pass them. I get people behind me honking but what to do? There is NO way you can leave the 3' gap and pass. So I just go slow, thinking that the bicyclist is meat and my car is metal and I am not in a hurry.

PitMix Oct 02, 2018 02:24 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Speaking of Micheltorena, what is happening with the Sola bike lane? Whenever I bike on Micheltorena between Bath and Castillo, I try to go as fast as I can to get out of the way of the cars. A bike lane on Sola would really help that situation.

S.B.Dutchman Oct 02, 2018 12:35 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

(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:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(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.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

Chip of SB Oct 02, 2018 12:44 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Thank you for bringing up the “Slower Traffic Keep Right” law. I believe this is a major highway safety issue. It is important to emphasize that California vehicle code 21654 requires vehicles moving slower than the normal speed of traffic to drive in the right lane REGARDLESS OF THE SPEED LIMIT. In short, if you are not passing or preparing to make a left turn you do not belong in the left lane. It is unfortunate this law is not commonly enforced because it has the potential to reduce the frequency of accidents on freeways and to reduce traffic congestion. A campaign to educate the motoring public about CVC21654 coupled with enforcement efforts could make a big difference.

Although CVC21654 is not commonly enforced in California, I would caution those who drive slowly in the left lane of the potential for civil liability in the event of an accident. It is illegal to drive slowly in the left lane, and if you contribute to causing an accident by breaking the law you could be held responsible for a portion of the resulting damages in court.

a-1538634350 Oct 03, 2018 11:25 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

the other day, I was passing in the fast lane here in town. the person in the middle lane pulled out in front of me at the last second for no reason (there was no one directly in front of them) and proceeded to drive 68mph in the fast/passing lane. on the back of their car in the window was a sign reading "respect the law. 2mph"
they then sat in the fast lane for miles, refusing to pull over when cars were piling up behind them. absolutely unsafe and ridiculous!

S.B.Dutchman Oct 02, 2018 01:16 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

In Germany, the slower traffic keep right law is called "Rechtsfahren", this translates to Drive Right.

Chip of SB Oct 02, 2018 01:29 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

The rate of freeway accidents in Germany is lower than it is in the United States, despite many portions of German freeways having no speed limit. I believe strong enforcement of the "Drive Right" law in Germany is a critical component of that safety achievement. It's time we do the same here in California.

Sundance Oct 02, 2018 01:36 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Speaking of laws - aren’t bicyclists supposed to stop at Stop signs?? Most of them don’t, and just go flying through 4 way stops. They could have easily been hit and it’s not fair to drivers who are following the laws and may hit them because they’re not!

PitMix Oct 02, 2018 02:27 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

It's actually safer for bikers to treat stop signs as yield signs because they can maintain some speed through the intersection and get out of the way quicker. Jurisdictions with this rule have fewer bike injuries. But, given that CA law currently requires them to stop, means that they should.

all knowing Oct 03, 2018 07:58 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Sundance has it right........most cyclists are hyprocrites.........who ya gonna believe ?.......bike bureaucratics or your own eyes and experiences........everyday driving I see cyclists riding side-by-side in the bike lane......the one on the white line of the bike lane always gives you the dirty look when you drive by.......rarely do they stop at stop signs ( most car drivers, for that matter ) or red lights.......they seem to always have that " bike rider " attitude.......last time I checked, bicyclists don't pay taxes to be on the road.....

mjp Oct 03, 2018 11:10 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Most of them do stop, but in Isla Vista you have to watch out for this. The biggest hazard is bikes without brakes on. Some companies rent out beach cruisers which have no brakes at all (not even a fixed wheel). You often see these on bike paths near the beach. I got hit by one while running once, and I have witnessed a couple of other accidents involving these.

a-1538520112 Oct 02, 2018 03:41 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Good job, Robert. Your style of asking questions is effective. The whole point is that people do not know these laws and courtesies. The answers that say "you do it, too" to bicyclists is not relevant. How does a cyclist failing to come to a full stop justify flinging your car door open without looking? Does anyone ever admit they can learn something anymore? Or does everything have to turn into a tribal battle?

pxn Oct 02, 2018 05:42 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

One of these issues is a pet peeve of mine -- signaling. Even the cops and highway patrol frequently do not signal turns or lane changes. I told off a sheriff out in Goleta at the Market that he should signal his turns as a good example. He said he didn't have to signal because he was in the parking lot on private property. Then tried to intimidate me. I've never seen the turn signal rule enforced here.

420722 Oct 02, 2018 06:38 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

For a city full of trump hating liberals claiming to want equality for all and “I’m so happy your my neighbor” it’s truly sad to watch the way people treat each other in this town. I get out a lot and what I see is not great. Me me me and only me is the attitude by many.

Lina24 Oct 08, 2018 08:45 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Judging from your up votes, it looks like most of the people you're talking about are Liberal hating trump lovers.

a-1538545270 Oct 02, 2018 10:41 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Yes, I have a VERY hard time believing that those honking horns for vehicle remotes can't be disengaged-----on every make of vehicle. It isn't only cyclists that jump a mile when someone clicks that remote door lock and the horn blasts. If one of my near neighbors was allowing that honking lock remote action to go off at all hours, I wouldn't put up with that for a red hot minute. People who think its acceptable to disturb the peace with those honking remotes are, in my opinion, selfish dimwit jerks one and all. As for people ranting about bicyclists riding three abreast and going too slowly . . . We who drive should all be eternally grateful that those healthy enough and risk-taking enough to ride bikes are cruising around NOT using their cars/trucks and NOT adding to our already polluted-by-combustion-engines air.

mjp Oct 03, 2018 11:01 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

One of the people I work with fell off his bike (I think a motor scooter) when someone honked him.

a-1538579131 Oct 03, 2018 08:05 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

People who complain about cyclists "blowing through stop signs" are clinical psychopaths.

a-1538581186 Oct 03, 2018 08:39 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Please explain how I'm a "clinical psychopath" for being upset at a common occurrence? Are you really trying to say this doesn't ever happen? If so, it's clear who's deranged here...

SantaBarbaraObserver Oct 03, 2018 08:13 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

This is the most EdHat article I've read. Car horns? Haha. Maybe SB should ban them! Let's get our brilliant, super successful and effective mayor and city council to hire a $350k consultant to explore the possibility. pffff.... People are selfish and self centered. Nothing exhibits this more than turn signals. They are literally the easiest thing to do while driving and yet most people seem incapable of moving that left finger...

mjp Oct 03, 2018 11:00 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

As far as I am aware, the horn honk only happens when people use the remote to lock the car. If it is locked using the key in the lock or pressing a button in a car, there is no honk.

Of course, I do not always see what means people are locking their car when the horn goes off. Like when I am in bed asleep and get woken up by a horn.

a-1538634038 Oct 03, 2018 11:20 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

my car does not lock if I press the button on the door and the door is open (I can lock it using the button when the door is closed, like when I get in and lock the door behind me. it does not beep at this time) but I could pop the key out of the fob and use the key to lock the door I suppose but I have not tried it to see if it makes a noise for that. I am thankful that my car beeps rather than honks though. honking is so much louder

mjp Oct 04, 2018 08:16 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

On some cars, if you lock it by pressing the button on the door, you have to hold/squeeze/press the handle while you close it for it not to unlock.

mjp Oct 04, 2018 08:16 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

On some cars, if you lock it by pressing the button on the door, you have to hold/squeeze/press the handle while you close it for it not to unlock.

a-1538670389 Oct 04, 2018 09:26 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

Nope. just checked my manual. If the driver's door is open, you cannot use the power locking switch inside the door to lock the car. all doors have to be closed for the car to lock, whether by using the switch or the key fob.

Lina24 Oct 08, 2018 09:02 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

I'm surprised by those bothered by the quick horn honk of someone locking their car doors. I consider myself a nerve frazzled person and never once jumped when hearing one. Geez if that causes a biker to fall imagine the disaster that could happen when a real emergency situation requires honking your horn to warn them about something. Sounds like they need to train to not get spooked so easily, like horses.

a-1539021657 Oct 08, 2018 11:00 AM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

I am sure you would not mind this blast outside your bedroom window at 3AM. I have experienced this way too many times. Most people here would like to turn it off. At least they know it is wrong even if they don't know how to stop it from happening.

sbrobert Oct 05, 2018 04:32 PM
Driving and Bicycling Concerns

I am grateful that this article generated such interest. And that most of the comments were helpful and constructive. I read every one. I am happy to know that the horn blast when locking car doors is an issue for others as well. As I suspected, many people don't know how to turn it off. Each vehicle is different, unfortunately. You may have to ask the dealer. As noted, in some cases it requires the dealer to reprogram it. With other cars it is as simple as pressing the door lock and shutting the door. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Regarding turn signals, glad this peeves others as well. It actually peeves me more when someone uses a turn signal AS they are turning than if they didn't use it at all. That indicates they don't even understand the purpose. The turn signal is meant to be used in ADVANCE OF A LANE CHANGE BEFORE A TURN as well as in advance of a turn.
As for the criticisms of bicyclists, I agree with almost all of them and I call out fellow cyclists. I once calmly said "get a light" to a bicyclist dressed in black with no light. He threatened me and I was also on a bicycle. The one criticism I don't agree with is the demand to ride far right when it is not safe to do so. Until motorists stop flinging doors open without looking, bicyclists will have to "take the lane" at times.
Regarding bicyclists and taxes, bicyclists actually pay six times as much in taxes as motorists do per mile travelled. How can that be? Because most of the taxes for roads come from general taxes, not from fuel taxes. Bicyclists pay those taxes, too. And they travel fewer miles.
One more note: Confirmation bias is wired into our brains. We look for confirmation of what we already believe rather than looking for refutations of our beliefs. As a result, most people are biased toward seeing bicyclists as more likely to break the law. However, a number of studies have shown that bicyclists are not more likely to break the law than motorists. And they do so for different reasons. Below are two articles on the subject.
Best wishes,

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