The law is on cyclists' side, readers say

Cyclists respond to readers ambivalent about the new three-foot buffer rule

Los Angeles drivers are protective of their road space, an attitude made clear by the three letters published Thursday admonishing cyclists to follow traffic laws strictly and to get out of the way of faster cars in exchange for a state law giving them three feet of protection from passing automobiles.

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FOR THE RECORD:
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Jeff Jacobberger as chairman of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coaltion. In fact, Jacobberger chairs the city of Los Angeles' Bicycle Advisory Committee.
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Up until Thursday, no publishable letters taking the side of cyclists on this issue had been sent to us. That changed once the three letters ran; since then, several cyclists have offered their perspective.

Huntington Beach resident Steven Short has a few requests for drivers:

Letter writers are annoyed by the behavior of some bicyclists. As someone who commutes daily by bicycle, I have suggestions for drivers:

Do not drive faster than the speed limit. Put down your phone. Do not drive after drinking. Look for oncoming bicyclists and pedestrians before you make your left turn. Do not throw food, bottles or other items at bicyclists as you pass them.

These are not mere annoyances; to a bicyclist, they represent an existential threat.

Jeff Jacobberger, chairman of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, clarifies laws on cycling:

It is becoming tiresome: Motorists write letters complaining about perfectly lawful and safe behavior by bicyclists.

It seems that motorists want cyclists to stay out of travel lanes. Unless a lane is more than 14 feet wide (and their are few of those in the Los Angeles area), it won't fit a bike and a car, so bicyclists should take a full lane to discourage close passes by motorists. And, if that lane is not shareable, it is lawful for bicyclists to ride two or more abreast.

Slower-moving vehicles or bicyclists are required to pull over to let vehicles pass only on streets with one lane in each direction, and only when there are more than five vehicles behind them. In more than 20 years of bicycling and driving all over Los Angeles, I have never observed such a situation. In any event, when bicyclists do continually pull over to let vehicles pass, we are accused of "weaving in and out of traffic."

Wrong-way and sidewalk cycling are frustrating to motorists and pedestrians and in fact less safe for cyclists than riding with traffic in the street. However, these are merely symptoms of the fact that most bicyclists do not feel comfortable riding with traffic. Writing letters complaining about lawful and safe bicycling on the street does not convince bicyclists to get off the sidewalk.

John Hamilton Scott of Sherman Oaks discusses bikes on sidewalks:

Many people seem to be unaware of the laws concerning bicycles on sidewalks. State law permits it unless a local city or county enacts a prohibition.

Regulations vary considerably in Los Angeles County. For example, riding on the sidewalk is prohibited in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles, permitted in the city of Los Angeles so long as it is done safely, and prohibited only in some areas of Monrovia.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has an online sidewalk riding guide for L.A. County.

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