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July 27, 2005

Bicyclists and turn-out lanes

A recent Q and A Column in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, in Northern Ca. brings up an important issue: Since Car drivers are legally required to used turn-out lanes when the need arises, shouldn't Bicyclists do the same?

Genevieve Bookwalter, in her Street Smarts Column, shares California Vehicle Code 22400:

"No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade or in compliance with law.

"No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with the law."

The vehicle code adds if five or more cars are lined up behind a slow-moving vehicle, that leader should pull off at the first turnout area and let the rest pass.

In the same column is a letter from a writer concerning the cyclist side of the equation.

I want to share the entire letter because the issues it raises are not just specific to Santa Cruz, but need to be considered whereever there are bicyclists out and about, and I'd like to see if any readers of this story have some thoughts to add.

Audrey Nickel, of Mt. Hermon, writes:

While I definitely agree that slow drivers are a problem, I’d like to see an even more common problem addressed: bicyclists who refuse to use the turnout lanes to let automobile traffic pass.

Much of the stretch of Highway 9 between Felton and Santa Cruz is too narrow for a car to safely pass a bicycle, even one that is being ridden well to the right-hand side of the road, without crossing the double yellow line into the oncoming traffic lane.

This creates an incredibly dangerous and frustrating situation in which drivers must either follow bicycles for miles (often at speeds of less than 20 mph on the downhill side, requiring the driver to ride his brakes constantly to avoid running over the top of the cyclist, and dropping to as low as 10 mph on the uphill side, which puts an incredible strain on the transmission ... not to mention tempers), pass dangerously close to the cyclist, or take the risk (both legal and physical) of crossing the double yellow to pass.

The blind curves on that stretch of Highway 9 make the whole situation even more dangerous. There are turnouts all along that stretch of road, but I can count the number of times I’ve seen a bicyclist pull into a turnout on the fingers of one hand (and I’ve been a daily Highway 9 commuter — often going up and down multiple times per day — for nearly six years).

If there hasn’t been a fatal crash there already, thanks to these two-wheel road hogs, it’s only a matter of time.

I should add that some cyclists are very courteous and responsible, and actively work to help the motorist pass with minimal risk to both, but the majority either appear to be oblivious to the danger or (in some rare but notable cases), actually seem to delight in delaying motor traffic.

I think it’s great that some people are able to commute by bicycle, and I can understand the appeal of pedaling up and down that beautiful stretch of highway, but please ... remind bicyclists that "Share the Road" cuts both ways.

Granted, she is making a sweeping generalization about the "majority" of cyclists based on her encounters with a few, just like many cyclists do about car drivers, but she makes a valid, and important point.

When you ride along narrow rural, mountain, or other highways you need to keep in mind the traffic behind you, and move over, when it is safe to do so, to allow any back-up to pass you by.

When I rode up in the San Gabriels, and above Malibu, there were several times that I came to turnouts, and found it prudent to pull-in to allow traffic to pass.

Places like those, the Angeles Crest in LA County, Ortega Highway in Orange, and Riverside Counties, and Rim of the World in San Bernardino County, among other places, are other routes where safe driving practices by all users are an absolute must for survival.

July 4th-- Pulling over is the law when you’re towing a line of cars.

July 27, 2005 in Life on the Street: Local, and state Laws, and other topics | Permalink

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Comments

We really should let them by. After all, as folks who likely don't get much exercise (if any), they don't have much time left to spare in this world. ;D

Posted by: Robert Daeley | Jul 27, 2005 10:07:30 AM

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