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Mr. Roadshow on passing bicyclists safely

Original post made by Andrea Gemmet, Almanac staff writer, on Mar 7, 2007

The debate over sharing the road has reached the Mercury News' Mr. Roadshow column, with a letter about passing a group of bike riders on Canada Road in Woodside. It ran in the March 3 issue.

See what you think of this take on the issue: Web Link

Here's the question posed by the reader:
"While driving on Canada Road in Woodside, I found myself behind a large pod of 75 to 100 bicyclists taking up the entire lane. I remained behind them until the passing lane came up and then made my cautious move. The cyclists did not seem happy that I was passing them, and expressed some expletives. What is the rule of the road in this situation? Should I have poked along at 25 mph for two miles until I reached Highway 92?"

Comments (6)

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2007 at 10:30 am

Since Canada Road is a public road shouldn't both bicyclists and drivers be able to use the road at the same time? So shouldn't courtesy be the guide - both bicyclists and drivers (and pedestrians for that matter) should be sure to allow enough room for each other.

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Posted by Hell on wheels
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Mar 12, 2007 at 1:31 pm

You have a logical and inclusive view of the need to share the road. Obviously, you aren't from around here.

There is a fringe element among cyclists, local residents and motorists that have raised hostilities to a truly scary level.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2007 at 8:22 pm

If there are 75-100 of them and only 1 of you, then the speed of traffic on that road at that time is their speed, and the law does not require them to stay to the right. I am not aware of any passing lane on Canada Road, and I travel there regularly, so I'm not sure where or how the writer passed them. The answer to your question is: You should wait behind the bicyclists until you can pass them in safety for all. If that means 2 miles, then that is what the law requires. Safety is first and foremost, speed is secondary. If you find an earlier opportunity that allows you to move completely into the other lane without crossing a double-yellow line to pass, then that is legally allowed and safe. It is not legal to cross a double yellow line or straddle lanes or pass bicyclists closely. Of course one should consider courtesy and what would be polite to do, not just what is legal to do, but the original question was about the rules of the road.

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Posted by A driver and rider
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 16, 2007 at 8:04 pm

California Vehicle Code

Permitted Movements from Bicycle Lanes
21208. (a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

(b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement.

Amended Sec. 5, Ch. 674, Stats. 1996. Effective January 1, 1997.

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Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 11:17 pm

If cycle clubs and racers want to ride in a pelaton then they should have police escort or their own cars with signs like they would for a real race - else comply with the vehicle code clearly spelled out here.

I know some bikers want Olympic medals and we have ideal conditions for competitive training - but cars do want to drive at the speed limit.

Its far harder to ride single file and only come out of the lane when overtaking - not least because there are sometimes grates (e.g. those put the wrong way round going down 84 into Woodside), cracks or glass in the bike lanes.

So I would say if there's a car behind that the bikers should resist the temptation to measure their velocity and slow down and move single file into the bike lane.

Furthermore, the police should arrest errant cyclists who cannot comply with the vehicle code.

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Posted by A more patient person
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Jun 5, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Seems like the usual "disease" of drivers around here -- impatience. The difference between passing the group of cyclists in a potentially unsafe way to be able to travel 2 miles (not 20...) at the speed limit and staying behind the group at 25 mph is a grand total of 2 1/2 minutes. 2 1/2 minutes. Most drivers spend more time per trip stuck at red lights, behind slow trucks,... and most of these drivers don't even consider running a light to save some 2 1/2 minutes.

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