Do Bicyclists Have the Right to Take Over a Lane?

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The answer to this question, at least in Los Angeles, is yes.

But let me back track a bit. Yesterday at lunch a colleague of mine was ranting about how a cyclist veered into her lane in front of her car to avoid something in the bike lane. In her opinion, she was upset that the cyclist was being “rude” by not looking before veering into her lane. She felt that the cyclist put her in danger of having to veer into the lane of traffic to her left. Instead, she felt that the cyclist should have slowed down, looked over their shoulder, and waited for the car/cars to pass.

Now, this rant was coming from a non-cyclist who’s probably never been in a bike lane with traffic zooming past her. I’m not so sure how recently she’s ridden a bike, either, so her perspective is coming from a car-centric point of view. As a cyclist, I know that sometimes there’s no time to stop and look over the shoulder before veering into a lane. However, as a very cautious cyclist (knowing there are people that don’t give a damn about bike riders) I would never veer into a busy lane of traffic.

Though I couldn’t change her perspective, reminding her cyclists have no protective metal outer shell, it made me think about how many other drivers feel this way: that cyclists have very few rights on the road.

Yet, that’s not the case in Los Angeles. Cyclists DO have rights. Here are just a key few I found on Metro.net that come from the California DMV (which would cover not only Los Angeles, but other counties as well):

  • Bicyclists are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles. (I’ve been yelled at before for riding in the road by ignorant drivers. )
  • Have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle and motorcycle drivers. (Okay, so maybe the cyclist mentioned should have slowed down and glanced before swerving.)
  • May move left to pass a parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, animal, or avoid debris or other hazards. (Usually the reason for veering.)
  • Should ride single file on a busy or narrow street. (A question that popped up at lunch that I couldn’t answer.)

Interestingly enough, another law mentioned that it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks, but that’s not accurate. Recently, Los Angeles at least has approved certain areas as “okay” to ride on the sidewalk.

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