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Other Voices: Rules of the road for bicyclists and motorists

The law defines bicycles as vehicles. Bicyclists on streets or highways have all the rights of motor vehicles and are subject to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles.

Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic and as close to the right curb or edge of the road as is practicable and safe. Keep to the right except when preparing for a left turn or when it is necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects such as, but not limited to, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards. If there is no paved shoulder or bike lane and the road is not wide enough for a motor vehicle and bicycle to travel safely side by side in the same lane, the right wheel track for vehicles is considered acceptable for bicycles in most areas.

Bicyclists must obey all vehicle laws. Stop at stop lights and stop signs. Signal when making a turn or stopping. For a left turn, extend your left arm horizontally; for a right turn extend the right arm horizontally; to indicate slowing or stopping extend left arm downward with an open palm beside the bicycle. Except where designated, bicycles should be ridden on the street, not the sidewalk. Use hand signals when moving into a left hand lane or to make a left turn from a single lane.



For your safety, always be predictable. Be sure motorists see you and understand your intentions. Ride with traffic; never ride on the wrong side of the street; motorists will not expect to see you there. Don’t weave from one side of the road to the other when climbing a steep hill. Autos can appear quickly and you may not be able to move out of the way fast enough. Wear a safety approved helmet. Your local bike store carries them and can fit them to you correctly. Keep your bike in good condition. If you ride at night, use the correct lighting system. See Web sites such as http://www.dmv.ca.gov or http://www.bikelink.com for light requirements after dark. Watch for road hazards. Drivers of parked vehicles may suddenly open their door. Be courteous in traffic and take your turn at intersections. You do not have the right of way unless offered by a motorist.

Motorists need to be watchful for bicyclists on the road. A moment of inattention can cause your vehicle to be a lethal weapon. This is a bicycling community and many people use bicycles here. They should be treated with the courtesy of any slow-moving vehicle. That’s what they are. Do not attempt to pass in unsafe areas. Slow down and wait until you can safely pass. Be patient and courteous. Bike riders are aware of how vulnerable they are on the road. They are usually aware of approaching vehicles, so please don’t blast your horn, yell at them or display rude gestures. Remember, they have a right to be there, too.




If you are making a right turn after passing a bicycle rider on the right-hand side of the road, double check to be sure you are far enough in front of the rider to turn safely. Many cyclists travel at speeds of 15 to 25 mph on city streets. If you are turning right when traveling downhill near a cyclist, be aware they could be traveling at speeds of 50 to 60 mph. Make sure you can safely make your turn.

Take your turn. Treat cyclists as you would any other vehicle at intersections. Stay on your side of the road when on narrow winding roads where visibility is limited. Be aware there may be a cyclist ahead of you as you travel up blind curves. With knowledge of road rules and rights of both motorists and cyclists, all of us can be safe on the road.

Beth Donnelly lives in Nevada City.


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