New law requires bicyclists to pull over when traffic backs up

Just like other slow-moving vehicles, cyclists will have to pull to the right to allow backed-up traffic to pass under a new law that takes effect Jan. 1.|

Sonoma County cyclists say they’ve been doing it all along. Now, a new state law requires it.

Just like other slow-moving vehicles, cyclists will have to pull to the right to allow backed-up traffic to pass.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, but it’s a move conscientious riders already make, said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. The new law simply codifies it, he said.

“Sharing the road goes both ways,” Helfrich said. “We always teach in bike safety classes it’s how to behave anyway.”

At the same time, he said, drivers should not expect cyclists to yield before it is safe. Like other vehicles, bicycles with five or more cars behind them are required to pull over only at turnouts or when they have adequate space to do so.

And laws requiring motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot buffer still apply.

“Cyclists aren’t required to stand down in a drainage ditch as you drive by,” Helfrich said.

The new law is among several new regulations hitting the books that apply to different forms of transportation. One sets requirements for motorized skateboards. Another establishes categories for electric bicycles.

Under the new laws, the popular motorized skateboards can be ridden only on designated bikeways or streets with speed limits of 35 mph or slower. Riders must be at least 16 and wear helmets. Cities and counties may impose additional restrictions.

Electric bikes will be classified and labeled according to maximum speeds. Operators of the fastest bikes, capable of going 28 mph, must be at least 16 and wear a helmet. The new law also regulates travel on trails and paths.

But the new law for pedal bikes is likely to attract the most attention on the cycling-obsessed North Coast. Drivers and cyclists often are seen as competing for limited space on congested and sometimes-precarious roads.

A CHP spokesman said there have been 30 collisions since the beginning of the year, including one fatal cycling accident during Levi’s GranFondo.

In 2014, there were 41 crashes involving bikes, with another fatality, Officer Jon Sloat said.

The new law, which simply expands existing slow-vehicle rules to everyone on the road, could increase safety while making everyone aware of their obligations, Sloat said.

“This clarifies that if you do have cars built up, you should pull over as safely as possible to let them pass,” Sloat said.

Cyclists pondering the new law at the Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa on Christmas Eve said it would be easy to comply with.

“I don’t see that ever being an issue,” shop co-owner Jim Keene said.

Keene said he favors more drastic albeit unrelated changes, such as a proposal in San Francisco that allows cyclists to roll through stop signs if there is no other traffic present.

“A bicycle is at its most efficient when it doesn’t have to stop as much,” Keene said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne.

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