Driving and Bicycling Concerns
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.
DOOR OPENING HAZARDS
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.
USE OF THE HORN
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.
PROPER USE OF SIGNALS
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.
THREE FOOT PASSING LAW
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.
SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT
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.