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Friday, June 10, 2011

San Francycle: So Are Bikes Allowed to Take the Lane or Not?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 11:40 AM

click to enlarge san_francycle_copy_thumb_500x178_thumb_500x178.jpg

Can you believe how many commenters on last week's article took the position that because some cyclists break the law, it is okay for drivers to hit any cyclists they see? Crazy!

We racked up 178 comments, mostly expressing frustration at cyclists who ride through stop signs or red lights or get in other people's way.

Yup, those cyclists are out there. There are lots of them. But that's not what last week's article was about. It was about drivers who hit cyclists who are obeying the law.

But that seems to be where some of the confusion comes from: What exactly does "obeying the law" mean? Are bikes allowed on Franklin Street? Are they allowed to take the full lane?

The answer is kind of complicated. Yes and no, but mostly yes.

"Bicycles are allowed the full use of the lane," SFPD's Albie Esparza says. "However, if the person's riding a bike in the roadway and it's less than the speed of the normal traffic ... the bike shall move to the right."

Bikes have to stay as far right "as practicable," which is a confusing way of talking about things because "practicable" is not a word anyone ever uses.

Cyclists can move left if they're overtaking a slower bike or car, making a left turn, or if it's unsafe to ride all the way to the right.

And that's the gray area that makes it okay to take the lane, sometimes. If the rightmost pavement is too rough to safely ride in, or there's a row of parked cars with potentially opening doors, or the lane is too narrow for a car to pass a bike -- well, then, take as much of Franklin Street as you feel you need to.

"If it's narrow, it's common sense on both the driver and the cyclist," Esparza says.

We left messages with CHP to get its position, but nobody called back. Probably too busy making sure the right lane is safe for bicycles.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at what life is like when people are actually using the streets for doing people stuff rather than using them for speeding through neighborhoods and killing each other:

That's Sunday Streets in the Mission. Look at that, and then spend 10 minutes watching this footage of a traffic jam in Los Angeles. Which do you prefer owning the road? We'll take the bike every time.

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Matt Baume


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