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Blog: Enough with Defending Bicycle Riders — the Worst Vehicle Code Violators on the Road

Bicycle traffic violations need to be addressed with the same intensity as automobile traffic violations.

Are you sick and tired, as I am, of seeing bicyclists constantly violating the California Vehicle Code and having our somniac, apparently vision-impaired law enforcement officers doing NOTHING about it even though the violations happen right under their noses?

Now Sunnyvale has stupidly passed an ordinance that virtually puts all the responsibility for the safety of these errant cyclists on the motorists. Idiocy!

I cannot drive two blocks anymore without seeing bicyclists failing to stop for red lights or stop signs, riding on the wrong side of the road, riding on the sidewalks, cutting in and out of traffic, making improper turns without signalling, riding at night without lights, riding (not walking their bikes) in pedestrian crosswalks and more.

In fact, during the newscast announcing Sunnyvale's loss of sanity on TV, a bicyclist was seen riding on the wrong side of the street right behind the reporter! And I'm not necessarily talking about juveniles. A large portion of these riders have grey hair! Also, some of the worst are what appear to be veteran riders with the tight shorts, colorful club jerseys, and helmets.

It seems that almost all of the cycling population, as well as our law enforcement officers, are totally ignorant of the fact that there is a large section of the California Vehicle Code that is dedicated entirely to the regulation and proper operation of bicycles on our roads.

Basically what it says is that bicycles are to be subject to the same rules of safety and proper operation as automobiles. I am also assuming that, because of the existence of this section, it is assumed that law enforcement officers are bound to uphold it, something that is NOT happening.

If I, with my automobile, violated as many of these laws in a day as I see cyclists do, I would lose my driving privileges for a very long time. Yet, for some unknown reason, cyclists put themselves and motorists in positions of jeopardy and danger almost on a minute-to-minute basis and get a free pass!

I am not a stranger to bicycling. I rode for many years, even riding my bike to work on a daily basis for a period of time until a health issue caused me to stop riding. Now my transportation is primarily by automobile but, all to frequently, I have close encounters with bicyclists because of their irresponsible actions named above.

And I implore the police to possibly save some lives by doing ALL of their sworn duty and citing dangerous bicycle operation with as much vigor as they do errant motorists. After all, isn't their job to enforce ALL the laws, not just the ones that they choose, which seems to be their present mode?

While all this is very critical of bicyclists, it is not intended to let the motorists off the hook. I see drivers do some very stupid things, not only around bicycles but also around other motorists. We all have to share the same roads so let's try to make it better and safer for everyone but obeying the rules.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

anthony August 22, 2012 at 05:26 PM
read Sunnyvale's "loss of sanity" here... http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Portals/0/Sunnyvale/CouncilReports/2012/2972-12.pdf
Leah Hall August 22, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Nice public rant - go Ken! I have friends who are avid bicyclists. They enjoy the bicycling clubs, seeing new parts of the state and country, the health benefits (folks in their 50's -70's are riding the damn things) and so on. One time I asked a close bicycling enthusiast friend if she ever had trouble on the road with "road-rage" motorists. Gratefully, her answer was "no." However, she said that she and her fellow riders do tend to get nervous when passing or being passed by old beat up pick-up trucks on country roads. My two cents. ;-)
Carol Parker August 22, 2012 at 05:39 PM
While I applaud those who ride for exercise, environmental reasons and thrift I do not think that our infrastructure has caught up with the trend of more bikes on the road. Shouldn't there be bike corridors where no street parking is allowed and the parking law is enforced? I see bikes and cars have close calls often when there is no bike lane (or the bike lane is blocked by a parked car) . The bicyclist continues riding squeezed between the parked car and moving traffic. Broadway in downtown Oakland is one place I see this happening a lot particularly during commute hours.
Davis August 22, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I think that Bicyclists should obey the law, ride in their bike lane and stay off the sidewalks! They seldom stop for stop signs or red lights and zoom through on the crosswalk. (This is in the Dyer/Alvarado area in UC.)
Angela Griffiths August 22, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I agree -- cyclists need to adhere to the same rules of the road. Now a caveat: automobile drivers NEVER treat cyclists as they have the same rights to the road (which they do). If you come up behind a cyclist on a narrow road: it's THEIR road. They were there first. You are not allowed (per vehicle code) to pass "until it is safe to do so," and that passing must be done in a safe manner. Not in an effort to "make yourself known," or try to push the cyclist off the road. I am an avid cyclist and a coach. I teach people ettiquette as well as to adhere to the vehicle code. Now I wish the VEHICLES would too! Thanks for your passion. Now let's all be safe out there!!
Angela Griffiths August 22, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Awesome point, Carol. Less bike accidents would happen if there were safer places to ride and commute.
Leah Hall August 22, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I ask myself if our infrastructure has caught up with our cars. Common sense and a little research tells me "no." Developing populations like those in China and India are following us in our skid marks... I agree with Carol that cars (especially at higher speeds) and bikes don't mix and the bicyclist nearly always pays the higher price. Dedicated bike lanes are ideal - but they require the political will and space needed to construct. I lived in Seattle for several years near the University of Washington. A decade or so before my time there, urban planners and government representatives had turned an unused railroad track into a major dedicated bike and pedestrian trail which 1000's of commuters used everyday. I got my first trail bike and never owned a car there. Try that at UCLA. Berkeley - Albany has a very nice dedicated path that follows the elevated BART tracks in that area. My understanding is that parts of East Oakland and San Leandro are following suit.
Leah Hall August 22, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Hear, hear! ...and especially watch out for this Bay Area mom making news today. :) http://www.baycitizen.org/bikes/story/bike-commuting-passengers/?utm_source=Newsletters&utm_campaign=df44582b1d-August_22_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&mc_cid=df44582b1d&mc_eid=bc4f1c7480
David August 22, 2012 at 07:22 PM
As with nearly all things (including insulation and dual pane windows), the Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, was far ahead of the West Coast in converting unused rails to bike trails. It's nice when West Coasters finally catch up to something that's been happening in the Midwest for nearly 50 years. The first abandoned rail corridor in the United States converted into a recreational trail was the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin, which opened in 1965. Perhaps in another 20-50 years, the state will catch up to other progressive issues like school vouchers (established in Wisconsin, and the Euro socialist state of Holland), privatized social security (Sweden) etc.
Rob Rich August 22, 2012 at 07:54 PM
For better or worse, we live an automobile dominated culture. Not only does our infrastructure promote cars over all other choices, but our laws do too. "[M]ost of the resentment of rule-breaking riders like me, I suspect, derives from a false analogy: conceiving of bicycles as akin to cars." http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/opinion/sunday/if-kant-were-a-new-york-cyclist.html Of course, until our vehicle codes acknowledges the differences between bicycles and automobiles, both are required to follow the same rules. In the meantime, when parallel parking on the street, please take a quick glance back for approaching bicyclists prior to opening your car's door.
Leah Hall August 22, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Cool. Go Wisconsin! Shout out to America's most bike-friendly cities. 1 Minneapolis 26 Boston 2 Portland, OR 27 Philadelphia 3 Boulder, CO 28 Pittsburgh 4 Seattle 29 Charleston, SC 5 Eugene, OR 30 Arlington, VA 6 San Francisco 31 Sioux Falls, SD 7 Madison, WI 32 Boise, ID 8 New York City 33 Kansas City, MO 9 Tucson, AZ 34 Columbus, OH 10 Chicago 35 Tulsa, OK 11 Austin, TX 36 Grand Rapids, MI 12 Denver 37 Billings, MT 13 Washington, DC 38 St. Louis 14 Ann Arbor, MI 39 Cleveland 15 Phoenix/Tempe, AZ 40 Greensboro, NC 16 Gainesville, FL 41 Lexington/Fayette, KY 17 Albuquerque, NM 42 Omaha, NE 18 Colorado Springs, CO 43 Salt Lake City 19 Salem, OR 44 Miami 20 Scottsdale, AZ 45 Indianapolis 21 Louisville, KY 46 Fargo, ND 22 Chattanooga, TN 47 Anchorage, AK 23 Long Beach, CA 48 Baltimore 24 Cary, NC 49 Little Rock, AR 25 Milwaukee 50 Rochester, NY Lots of lists out there and the order shouldn't be written in stone. This one was published by Bicyling Magazine in 2011. http://www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/bicyclings-top-50
Davis August 22, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Do cyclists have an endorsement on their Drivers License to operate a Bicycle on public roads? Are they required to pass a written test and driver ability test? Are their bicycles subject to yearly fees? Are they required to have liability insurance?, It seems like they want all the privileges of a person driving a motor vehicle with none of the cost. "Share the road, Share the cost!"
Ken Martin August 22, 2012 at 10:33 PM
COMMENTERS! Please stay on the subject. It is NOT bike friendly cities, bike trails on abandoned railroad bed, licensing requirements for bicyclists, bike corridors, or who is not sharing the road with whom. It IS that bicyclists constantly violate the laws and are not cited. The question, and the subject is: Why not? Automobile drivers get cited for the same violations. Why don't cyclists suffer the same fate? Are they a privileged class? Where are the snoozing cops? THAT is the subject. Please stick to it.
Dan Arnhem August 22, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Hey Ken, I ride bikes and guess what, bikes should stop at stop lights, unless they don't work with the bike weight to trigger a light to change. However, bikes should NOT stop at all stop signs. Slow down, and proceed carefully, but they should NOT entirely stop. There is a huge difference in slowing to less than 5 mph, and stopping to a dead halt, requiring a rider to unclip his pedals and start from zero, especially on hills. If you don't care to understand that, then I don't care what you think about me NOT slowing to zero mph at stop "signs". Stop Lights are different. Tired of drivers who know so little about biking, such that they are alway moaning and groaning. You need to get out a little bit and ride a bike in the real world.
Ken Martin August 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM
I rode for years and always managed to stop at signals AND all stop signs. I would still ride but cannot due to a health issue, I am totally familiar with the bike world. If you had completely read the blog, you would have known that, And, AGAIN, the subject is NOT my familiarity with riding bicycles. It IS, I repeat, bicyclists that ride with their heads up their butts and the cops that do nothing about it. Why do Patch commenters have such a hard time staying on the subject?
Dan Arnhem August 22, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Ken, I do NOT come to a complete halt (zero mph) at all stop "signs"... I don't care what you say or what law is passed, I won't come to zero mph. It is idiotic, especially when we're talking about residential areas and less traveled intersections. Many of us who ride with clip-in pedals are NOT going to come to a complete halt and put our feet down just to make you feel good about the vehicle code. In that instance, cars and bikes are different. No skin off your rear if someone only slows to walking speed. Or do you want pedestrians to come to a halt before they can step off a curb at a intersection where there is a stop sign?
Ken Martin August 23, 2012 at 12:42 AM
You seem to very conveniently overlook the other stupid traffic violations committed constantly by bicyclists: riding on the wrong side of the road, cutting in an out of traffic, not even bothering to slow down for stop signs or signals, riding on the sidewalk riding at night without lights, etc. Please go back and read the ENTIRE blog and try to get the ENTIRE point before you continue to defend the indefensible. Try, if you can, to note that I also comment on lackadaisical law enforcement. You are nitpicking one small point out of several. As for me, I refuse to continue wasting my time replying to comments that seem to have little thought behind them or incomplete comprehension of what I wrote. This will be my last comment on the subject. Good day!
Rob Rich August 23, 2012 at 12:45 AM
We need to revise our vehicle code to acknowledge the significant differences between cars and bikes. In my opinion, the police are exercising good judgment when they ignore de minimis violations that pose no hazard. Rolling stops are common for cars as well as bikes, but the consequences of being hit by a car, as many cyclists can attest, are enormous. In contrast, flying through a crowded intersection, even on a bike, can be deadly for pedestrians and deserves strict enforcement. Thank goodness police are exercising a little common sense. Now if the rest of us could exercise a little more common courtesy while on the roads, we all would be better for it.
Dan Arnhem August 23, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Ken, Way more traffic violations by cars than bike riders. It clear to see that you are fixated on all the evils of bike riders. How often are drivers or even pedestrians killed by bike riders? Very seldom. Now look at the number of cyclists killed by errant car drivers. I'm guessing the ratio is over 100 to 1 with cars being the real danger. Yet you keep your focus on the bike rider. Sounds like you need some perspective. Study the data. Bad bike riders are normally only a danger to themselves.
Leah Hall August 23, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Well, Ken Martin, it just goes to show you, if it's not some thing, it's another. Either your turning red in the face because of an idiot on a bicycle, or your stuck in traffic with knuckleheads swerving with cell phones hanging out of their hairy ears. Yesterday I see some woman picking a teenie tiny piece of spinach out of her teeth in the rear view mirror. When that happened I stuck my head out of my car window and I say to her "Hey, Princess 580 Interstate, what are your trying to do, make me sick or something?
David Ross August 23, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Spot on, Ken! I encounter bicyclists quite often along Cull Canyon Road. They often ride two abreast. They don't always pay attention to what's going on around them.
Dan Arnhem August 23, 2012 at 04:01 AM
David, they have the right to ride two abreast. You have the right to pass them when no one is coming in the other direction, in the opposite lane. You should be happy that for the most part, they ride single file and stay far to the right. You know, they don't have to do that for you. If you are stuck behind them, that is your problem. Again, most riders make way for cars to pass, but it is not required of them to do so as long as they stay in their own lane. They certainly don't have to ride 6 inches from the dirt and through glass and other objects on the side of the road. If there is a white line on the right hand side of the road, they do NOT have to stay to the right of that line. Their first priority is to stay alive, not to make your journey faster.
Naomi Armenta August 23, 2012 at 03:23 PM
At the risk of irritating the writer more, I did want to share that San Leandro's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan does have a chapter on "Safety, Education, and Enforcement". We on the San Leandro BPAC are interested in hearing ideas and input! http://www.sanleandro.org/depts/transit/bicycle.asp Personally, one of my biggest concerns is how many parents and grandparents I see riding with kids and no one's wearing a helmet. People - keep your kids safe! And be a good example! -- Naomi Armenta, BPAC Chair
Jason H. August 23, 2012 at 04:57 PM
33k people died in car accidents in 2010. 600 died in bike accidents. The most common fatal accident for Bike riders was being hit by cars that failed to yield. Perhaps the cops just have their priorities straight.
Brent Sacrey August 23, 2012 at 06:58 PM
It seems to me that there are a myriad of other issues in this world that could benefit from all the intellect being expended on whether or not a cyclist makes a complete stop at a stop sign or not. The blog's subjects intention of sparking the police to focus more time on making sure that a small percentage of cyclists, that are riding amongst the car crammed streets of our town, are following proper California traffic laws. Is really reaching for a rant worthy issue and petty in-comparison to a ton of other issues that our community could, and should be concerned about. I personally would prefer that the police busy themselves with far more important issues like, um... crime! As far as the ordinance that was "stupidly" (choice descriptor) passed in Sunnyvale. It makes perfect sense! The reason is, if a car and a cyclist come in contact on the road. No matter who is at fault. The cyclists chances of being hurt or killed are far more likely than that of the driver of the car. I would be far more concerned with Sunnyvale's level of intelligence if they passed an ordinance that was reversed.
Nancy Leigh-Smith August 24, 2012 at 04:03 AM
I think an article that begins "Are you sick and tired of..." and "vision impaired law enforcement officers" is going to get comments that push back. I am not a bicycle rider, but I was, long before there were any bike lanes. I was slapped in the behind by a passing motorist and had a car door opened right in front of me over which I sailed and landed on my face. As a pedestrian, I see very scary actions from drivers, whose vehicles obviously have a weight advantage. Aside from aggressive driving and expressions of motorized resentment toward walkers and cyclists, there are people who are texting while driving forward, backing out of parking spaces and turning on green lights while people are in the crosswalk. I vote for the system that I saw in Germany in the 80s: very wide sidewalks with a pedestrian icon in one portion and a bicycle icon in the other; pedestrians were free to walk in the bike lane until hearing a bell. Everyone knew this system. It makes much more sense for walkers/cyclists to share a space, and leave the roadways to cars. Until something like that happens, I think the onus is on the motor vehicle operators to exercise care and compassion for people with no hard shell to protect them.
Tamerlane August 28, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I'm a cyclist and my main objective is to STAY SAFE and ALIVE. I have ridden with other people who scare the heck out of me, weaving in and out of traffic, sailing through intersections.... No, I don't ALWAYS come to a full and complete stop at every sign, but I will never ever assume or demand to be given the right-of-way, when it would not be mine if I were in a car. The point is that people often are not able to see cyclists and it is the responsibility of the cyclist to keep that in mind. Personally, I would find NO satisfaction or comfort in the knowledge that the person driving the car that maimed me should have seen me and anticipated my moves. Where is your sense of self-preservation, people????
Ken Martin November 14, 2012 at 03:04 PM
How did this drivel get in here? Does anybody even understand it?
Pete MacKay December 03, 2013 at 04:40 AM
Nowhere in Sunnyvale's anti-harassment ordinance does the law defend a bicyclist who is breaking CVC, or as you say "puts all the responsibility for errant cyclists on motorists." You clearly did not read the ordinance, or at least comprehend it. It basically recognizes that harassment of cyclists exists, just as hate crime laws recognize that the root cause of some crimes are due to the victim being Jewish, black, homosexual, etc. The ordinance does not define a criminal charge above and beyond any existing laws against menacing, assault, or physical or verbal threats. It simply reinforces a civil avenue. I can assure you the behaviors you describe are far more threatening to other bicyclists than they are to drivers, and I'd readily challenge the number of offences you witness because, frankly, even at a 30% annual increase in ridership around here there just aren't that many cyclists on the road. Because your rant targets bicyclists directly (and lacks any statistical reinforcement), it ironically demonstrates the need for ordinances that recognize this kind of directed hatred - especially if you take this emotional energy out on the road with you.

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