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Should Bicyclists Obey Every Traffic Law?

Should Bicyclists Obey Every Traffic Law?

Common Traffic Laws I Don’t Obey When Cycling

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen for the most part. It’s true that I cut off the tags on my pillows that say “it’s against the law to remove these tags…blah, blah, blah”, but I don’t feel like this negatively affects or injures anyone. I do weekly indoor workout by recumbent exercise bike on Monday instead of Sunday. I’ve also watered my lawn on Wednesday’s instead of Thursday’s when I’ve forgotten to water on Monday’s. For some background info on this, Los Angeles is in a drought and we are only supposed to water our lawns on specific days. I feel that some laws and regulations are “gray areas”, meaning they are laws or regulations that are intended to keep people safe or safer but do not necessarily injure anyone if they are not upheld.

With that in mind, I’ve been riding my bike over the past two years to and from the store, Starbucks, pretty much anywhere within a 3-5 mile radius of my neighborhood, and have knowingly broken some traffic laws. For instance, on quiet side streets at similarly quiet intersections, I have breezed right through a stop sign or two. The reason I feel this isn’t damaging to anyone is that I do look for approaching traffic and will slow down or stop if I absolutely have to. One may question my own safety or intelligence for running through an intersection, but for non-bike riders and those that haven’t any experience riding bicycles, it takes a lot more energy to get moving from a complete stop than a rolling, slowing, I’m running through that intersection because there is no cars motion. If I were asked to write up a new set of bicycle laws, not stopping at stop-sign only intersections when there are no cars would definitely be okay in my book.

Another law I break when I ride around my neighborhood is the “don’t ride on the sidewalk” rule. Bicycles are considered moving vehicles and are supposed to follow traffic laws, meaning I am supposed to ride my bicycle in the street whether there are marked bicycle lanes or not. Whether drivers purposely drive too close to me or not. Or whether the person in the parked car with the broken side mirror sees me or not. However, I have my own safety to consider first. Depending on the traffic on any given street, I make the choice to either ride in the street or on the sidewalk.

My neighborhood has its quiet streets; therefore I make the decision to ride in the street. There are also many busy streets, so I make the choice on those streets to ride on the sidewalk. This isn’t to say I purposefully run into pedestrians on the sidewalk. I don’t live in New York City, so in actuality, there aren’t many pedestrians on the sidewalks in my neighborhood to run into. When I do come across the infrequent jogger or speed-walker, I make my approach known and politely say, “Excuse me,” and “thank you.” I don’t want the occasional pedestrian to have a bad experience with a cyclist on the sidewalk and forever disapprove of me or another cyclist.

Each and every cyclist has most likely deviated from the traffic laws at one point or another, and I don’t advocate cycling recklessly into or across moving traffic. I also don’t consider myself a reckless biker; I just have selectively chosen which laws to abide and when to abide by them. On the last note, just to justify my riding on the sidewalk, I once had a driver yell out of his window when I was riding in the street, “Get on the sidewalk!” He obviously doesn’t know that technically speaking, I’m not supposed to ride on the sidewalk. That day I was following the rules.

Good HUB! I agree though I don’t actively cycle I am a bit of a runner (haven’t in a long time however) If riding a bike I agree with EVERYTHING except I think it should be added that however hard it is to stop when there is a jogger around I always move 100% out of their way because I hate moving for people when jogging is takes so much energy and causes you to get out of the zone, and I know how much this sucks! However, depending on what type of surface you are on you may come to a complete stop.

Should Bicyclists Obey Every Traffic Law?

Some Real Peoples Experiences:

  • Common sense is the most important part of staying safe on the roads while riding a bike. Generally, the bike laws are not the problem; it is how people (mis) understand them that is the problem. Many motorists assume the law says you should stay all the way in the gutter if you are riding your bike on the street. This is not true. The laws say cyclists must ride as far right as IS SAFE. If there are parked cars on the right, it is NOT safe to ride a bike right next to them (in case someone opens the door of a parked car – or pedestrians jump out from between them) and thus it is not safe to allow cars to THINK they can pass you in the same lane. You are more visible to drivers taking the middle of the lane in such a case. Drivers are looking forward, not at the blur of clutter on the right or the driveways and side streets. All that said, there are streets that I HAVE to ride to get out of my neighborhood where I choose the sidewalk over the street. And there are streets where I take the middle of the right traffic lane because that is safer (even in traffic areas).

Seth P. Moses
4502 Parkview Drive
Santa Ana, CA

  • I’ve been riding since 1996 and have glided through man stop signs. Like you I do slow down and make sure I’m not going to be slammed. MY safety is MY responsibility. If approaching a big hill I will ride ahead, check traffic and tell my wife to or not to just blow through without slowing down.
    I believe the biggest problem cyclists face is the uneducated (about cycling) non-riders that are out there in their cars, SUV’s and trucks that have no idea how to deal with a cyclist. So our biggest challenge is to anticipate their next move and not make any sudden unexpected moves that cause them to freak out. A bad experience or two that they have with cyclists put a bad taste in their mouth for ALL cyclists.

Happy cycling and BE SAFE.

Joan S. Thomas
Davis Court, De Soto

  • I’m scared to death of riding a bike in the street and following the traffic laws. In California, we are supposed to follow the same rules as drivers, including making a left turn from the left turn lane. I feel much safer acting as a pedestrian (as I feel cyclists should be considered, just as when I was growing up in Florida). I would feel much safer crossing at crosswalks. Seriously, there are nowhere near as many pedestrians as there are drivers. With the exception of roads with bike lanes, and there are not nearly enough, how is riding a bike on the street with vehicles supposed to be safe. C’mon, bikes cannot go near as fast as cars. Dangerous! Now bike riding is a stress factor, instead of an enjoyable activity.

Helena Morgan

Author: Ronald Y Holmes

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