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.


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.


Written by sbrobert

What do you think?


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  1. 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!

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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…..

  15. 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…

  16. 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.

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