Wednesday, August 15, 2007

San Francisco Police Say "Take the Lane"

The San Francisco Police and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have gotten together to release a video on the safest ways to bicycle on regular streets. They do a great job of showing the law as relates to the many issues relating to cyclists, but also giving tips for extra safety. Here's the video, check it out.

One of the things you'll see in the video is the commentary on the laws relating to bicycle safety. I've already covered the general traffic code as relates to bicycles, but there are many issues that relate to cars and their general relationship with traffic and bicycles.

The first is the hazard of dooring, when motorists aren't paying attention and open their car doors into traffic. This happens a lot. And, according to city traffic code 2131.25, it's illegal, and drivers can be held responsible for it.
2131.25 Driver’s view and control to be unobstructed by load, persons, or animals.
(c) No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
They also make the note that it's safest to stay about 4 feet away from parked cars on a bike... good advice. This goes along with traffic code 2173.07:
2173.07 Riding bicycle on right side of roadway; traffic control devices; hand and arm signals; yield right of way.
(a) Any person operating a bicycle shall:
(1) Ride as near to the right-hand side of the roadway as practicable, obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
The key words here are: "as practicable." The Webster definition:
capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished
To my way of thinking, that means you stay as close as you can without endangering yourself. So take the lane where necessary.

The second situation, the motorist intimidation scenario, shows the motorist flashing their brights at the cyclist and then throwing things at him when she passed him. This is clearly assault, but as far as the traffic code goes, it's against traffic code 2133.02:
2133.02 Reckless operation on streets, public or private property.

(a) No person shall operate a vehicle on any street, highway, or on any public or private property other than streets or highways without due regard for the safety of persons or property.
(b) No person shall operate a vehicle on any street, highway, or on any public or private property other than streets or highways, in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.
Get the license number and report these people. Some riders carry a digital camera with them at all times for such things. Not a bad idea, and many of them are small enough to be easily carried while riding.

I sent this video to the mayor's office and hopefully we can get our police to watch this and learn from it as well, or even to put together a local version of it.

2 comments:

  1. Good luck on your efforts there, Jamie.

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  2. "Take the lane" means controlling the traffic lane when it is unsafe and unreasonable to allow faster traffic to pass. Let's re-frame the traffic experience, when a cyclist is on the road (not the shoulder), you are another vehicle with some unique features, see you already the part of the lane, nothing to take, the lane already your's, use it!

    "Using the full lane" is better way to express controlling the lane or simply "Control the lane". Here's is wiki page with some interesting observations about when and where to "Use the full lane":
    http://tinyurl.com/yuloll

    Cyclist don't have to take anything, they need to know they are already part of "traffic" and use the lane wisely!

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