When it comes to safety, bicyclists may have it the hardest of all, fitting in somewhere between motor vehicle operators and pedestrians. While Los Angeles tries to level the playing field by granting cyclists as many rights and responsibilities as auto drivers, that only goes so far in keeping bicyclists safe from collisions with automobiles. Where the law can only go so far, it’s up to bicyclists and auto drivers to ensure roadway safety for everyone.
There are Laws for Bicyclists
The law governing bicycle riders in Los Angeles makes few distinctions between them and motor vehicle operators. One example of this is the law prohibiting bicyclists from riding, while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Much like DUI laws, cyclists caught riding under the influence can be cited by police and penalized.
Additionally, bicycles in Los Angeles must make sure their equipment is in good working order. This includes operating a bike with a good brake, defined as being able to produce a wheel skid on dry surfaces. The handlebars of any bicycle can’t be higher than the rider’s shoulders and the frame of the bicycle must be low enough that the rider can support it with one foot on the ground.
For night riding, the bicycle must be equipped with a white headlight. An alternative offered by the law is a light attached to the rider, also a bright white light, that is visible from the front. Red reflectors are required to be affixed to the rear of the bicycle, while pedals need yellow or white reflectors to ensure the bicyclist remains visible to other people on the road.
Even the seats are regulated by Los Angeles traffic laws. The seat must be permanent to the bicycle and of a regular design. For bicycle passengers under 40 pounds (infants, children), the law requires an additional seat that functions to keep them in place and away from any moving parts of the bicycle.
Sharing the Road with Motor Vehicles
It’s common knowledge that the rule for bicyclists is that they ride with traffic, staying as close to the right curb as possible. The exceptions to this rule in Los Angeles are when the cyclist is passing, engaging in a left turn, or attempting to avoid hazards or dangerous conditions on the road. Additionally, the law allows for a deviation of this traffic rule, when the bicycle lane or shoulder is too narrow to accommodate the rider.
Illegal behavior for bicyclists include hitching rides with motor vehicles by hanging onto the vehicle with one hand. Similarly, bicyclists can’t transport items that prohibit the cyclist from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars. Another stipulation regarding bicyclist behavior involves the parking of equipment. Bicycles in Los Angeles may not be left laying on their sides on sidewalks, or in any manner that blocks pedestrian traffic.
In Los Angeles, the city has provided bicycle lanes on most roadways, which are to be used by all bicyclists traveling slower than the rest of traffic. Again, exceptions include left turns, passing, or avoiding hazardous conditions, such as road work. The law also prohibits cyclists from stopping or parking their bicyclists on the bike paths.
Los Angeles has enacted the 3-Feet for Safety Act, a law requiring auto drivers to provide a 3-foot buffer between their vehicle and any bicycles on the road. Where the road is too narrow to allow for a three-foot distance between the vehicle and the cyclist, the driver is required to slow down his vehicle, while passing the bicycle.
While many of these laws are state-wide enactments, the city of Los Angeles has more laws regulating bicycle use. For instance, bicycles may not be operated on sidewalks, where they would pose a threat to the safety of people or property. There are also rules prohibiting the harassment of bicyclists, which includes the physical assault and intentional distractions of individuals riding bicycles.
While some of the rules governing bicyclists may seem cumbersome, their goal is to ensure bicycle riding in Los Angeles is a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Following the rules for bicycle safety and maintaining safety equipment, such as helmets, in good order is key to making every bike ride a positive experience.