“Hating bikes,” “Raging at cyclist,” “Share the road” — all headlines on recent letters to the editor about the continuing conflict between drivers and bicyclists in Sonoma County.

“Cyclists have every right to share the road,” and drivers need to realize that, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said. But bicyclists cannot impede traffic, he said.

He said the CHP gets complaints from motorists about cyclists, such as they’re riding three abreast and not making way for cars or they’re running stop signs. Bicyclists call about drivers who act aggressively or dangerously toward cyclists, he said. In investigating the cases, he said, officers find drivers are to blame half the time and cyclists the other half of the time.

Some incidents “verge on assault” by the drivers, he said.

But Sloat said the CHP hasn’t “charged anyone in the last year due to lack of evidence or witnesses. When something like this occurs, it’s like a road rage incident. We need to have a description, license plate, and victim that can ID the suspect. In cases where we have a plate only, we can’t file charges, but we send out warning notices to the registered owners.”

“It is tough from the victims standpoint, in that when these occur, they are trying to maintain control of a bike, while a vehicle is speeding by, and it is difficult to get that information, or even a good look at the car in many cases,” he said.

Under the state vehicle code, he said, bicyclists should ride as close to the right edge of the road as practicable. Click here to read passage.

“If two ride abreast, they may do so if the bike on the roadway side does not interfere with traffic,” Sloat said. “If they do interfere with the normal flow of traffic, they could be cited just as a motor vehicle would be.”

But he said the “exact language of the section could also be interpreted as never ride side by side unless passing.” He said he was checking with Sacramento CHP officials for clarification.

Christine Culver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said the number of incidents reported by cyclists this year appears unchanged from recent years. The coalition’s website CLICK HERE has a form that riders who believe they were harassed by a motorist can fill out to submit to the bicycle coalition, which keeps track of incidents, and to use to give the information to police.

She said “really few” bicyclists don’t follow the rules of the road and don’t make way for cars and trucks when they should.

To help spread the word on bike safety and traffic laws, she said the coalition works with some local police agencies, schools and cycling clubs. Culver also writes an insightful blog for pressdemocrat.com that includes safety tips for bicyclists CLICK HERE.

Here are some tips for motorists and bicyclists to help everyone get along and be safe:

–For motorists, be patient when you find cyclists ahead. When passing, keep at least three feet away from cyclists to ensure a margin of safety. If the cyclist(s) don’t move over in a timely manner — do give them a chance — perhaps they don’t know you’re there, so a slight, friendly toot of the horn may be in order to alert them to your presence. Smile.

–For bicyclists, be aware of traffic ahead and behind you and follow the rules of the road. Move to the right as soon as you can to allow cars to pass. Especially ride to the right and in single file anywhere a driver coming either way might not see you, such as blind curves or hills. Be predictable as you ride so that you don’t suddenly weave as a car passes. Smile.

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  1. Ronald

    As a bike rider and automobile driver I see more incidents created by bike riders than auto drivers. I’ve yet to have an incident bike riding because I obey the law and practice courtesy on the road. When I hear groups of bike riders saying they “own” a certain road and they refuse to move over or form single file they create a dangerous situation for the driver of a car and themselves. I volunteer as a docent at Point Reyes on the weekends and the number of arrogant bike riders there has increased as more riders discover the beauty of riding there. This philosophy of territory has to be replaced by knowledge of and obeying the law and practicing courtesy on the road.

    July 27th, 2010 8:57 am

  2. Jackie

    I agree with Ronald. It is very rare that I see bicyclist in my area follow basic rules. They ride 2 abreast, ride through stop signs, and ride going the wrong direction. I have even had someone flip me off after I slowed and allowed him to cut across traffic in front of me to get to the left turn lane. If you follow the rules and I follow the rules we should have no problems.

    July 27th, 2010 11:03 am

  3. Ramon

    As a bicyclist and acr driver, I see more drivers being at fault. I almost got run over by someone turning into a parking lot, who sped up to pass me (I was in the bike lane), and clipped my kickstand, dragging me along with them.
    When in the left turn lane, I’ve had people yell at me that I’m not a car.

    But, I also see a lot of bicyclists in RP not obeying the laws. They ride on sidewalks when bike lanes are right there, an they ride against traffic, when they do use the bike lanes.

    July 27th, 2010 11:23 am

  4. Gamma

    Honking at a cyclist that is not in immediate danger is a really stupid and rude thing to do. As a cyclist, a horn tells me I’m in danger and yes, I will be resentful after I find out that you couldn’t wait 10 measly seconds to pass me (but I will smile when, despite your impatience, you still didn’t make that green light). You, as a driver, may not think that I’m moving over in a “timely manner”, but please be aware that there are many hazards for a cyclist than a driver can see. I know you are behind me and I would like to give you room to pass but I’m busy avoiding potholes, wheel-grabbing cracks in the asphalt, glass, gravel, nails, and other road debris. I’m also watching the line of parked cars for a driver about to door me as well as the car in front of me that is very likely to turn right (without a signal). As a cyclist that follows the rules, please please please just take a couple of deep breaths – I promise that I’ll move over as soon as I can. I promise you that you’ll be more than 10 seconds late to wherever you’re going if you hit me…

    July 27th, 2010 11:25 am

  5. debby

    I think that a good way to educate bicyclists on the rules of the road is to require ALL bicycle riders to register their bikes, take a rules of the road test and have a small “license plate” on the rear seat.
    I constantly see bicycle riders run stop sign, red lights, cut across traffic, ride three and four abreast and talking or texting as they ride.
    A small $5 to $20 fee to register and get a “bike license” would also help the state economy by bringing in more dollars.
    The DMV already takes care of car registration so it SHOULD be able to handle bicycles too.

    July 27th, 2010 11:42 am

  6. Chris

    I cannot remember the number of times, cars have driven through the cross walk on college avenue.I’ve even been half way across and had cars drive through. I now use Humboldt due the risks.

    Yes, some bicyclists can be wrong but cars normally drive too fast in the JC area, do not stop at stop signs and do burn outs.

    When was the last time someone got alled killed by a bicycle?

    July 27th, 2010 11:57 am

  7. collinsfriend

    As a cyclist and a driver-I am often embarrassed and angered by the behaviors of BOTH. I have been honked at while well in the bike lane by old farts who aren’t even close, I’ve had cars swerve INTO the right lane and stop then rip away, all the while I was never near the road. Redneck boys like to yell. I always stop at signs, lights and usually let cars have my right of way, if they can move faster-team work for traffic efficiency. I follow the rules of the road AND common sense.

    In my car I have seen cyclist road hogs (I’ll bet they drive cars the same way) run signs, lights, cross the street from between parked cars, ride in the middle of the road on the wrong side of the street, sometimes in the dark with NO light. I’ve seen them play “critical mass” games P.O’ing and adding to general road rage. One charity ride 3 years ago hogged Soda Bay Road in Kelseyville for hours, enraging motorists trying get somewhere on time. My ride instead of taking 10 minutes to arrive, took an hour. Totally self righteous selfishness displayed by them. Cyclist should be REQUIRED to single file on traveled roads, cars should NOT be forced to decide to hit them, rather than have a head on collision. Both groups should be cited for even small infractions until they get used to behaving.

    July 27th, 2010 12:28 pm

  8. justin

    Im not a bike rider but i do drive a car and the term share the road does not exist to bike riders. I have been out to bodega hundreds of times and bike riders hog the road and ride 2 to 3 wide and its rude. Cyclists Are supposed to abide by the same rules as vehicles. That means stops at stop signs but do they do that NOPE!!!! If you bike riders were not so rude when it comes to roads with no bike lanes then maybe drivers would be a little more patient if you actually paid attention to people behind you.

    July 27th, 2010 12:31 pm

  9. David

    I recently had a guy riding two abreast and absolutely refuse to let traffic pass near west Petaluma. He was about 55 years old and was just being a jerk. There was absolutely no reason to hold up traffic. I also saw a biker rider running every stop sigh in Petaluma, he finally got to Western ave and ran that stop sigh right in front of a cop and the cop did nothing. The bike riders are rude and there are a much larger percentage that break the traffic rules than motorist. The police should enforce the laws for bike riders and motorists alike.

    July 27th, 2010 12:35 pm

  10. collinsfriend

    Gamma has a point about hazards-sometimes a cyclist can’t immediately move-it would be helpful if they/we signaled that we were attempting to so the driver will understand and be patient-perhaps start a universal hand signal. Bikes CAN’T stop as fast as non riders think they can, just like motorcycles. The traction is different and car drivers can steady on the steering wheel and except in a high speed accident is not going over the steering wheel-seat belts or not. 2 wheelers and always in danger of going over the handlebars with sudden stops, skidding out of control and sliding laterally and falling.
    Ronald also has a point -if we practice courtesy ALL ACROSS THE BOARD, it will spread and become the norm rather than the exception.

    July 27th, 2010 12:35 pm

  11. collinsfriend

    justin-there are more cyclists who deplore the road hogs (any kind) than approve. It is just that the road hogs get noticed more because they are more annoying. Those idiots make it hard for the rest of us who DO follow the laws of the road.

    July 27th, 2010 12:39 pm

  12. Shelly

    I find it especially bad in the rural areas of Sonoma County. As a Sebastopol resident, I use the country roads for transportation. I cannot tell you how many times I encounter bikers leisurely riding two and three deep thinking these roads are not used by motorists. In many cases, they do not “share the road” — that is expected from motorists, not cyclists. In one case, a biker road smack-dab in the middle of the road, so I was forced to follow her for about two miles, when she could have pulled aside to let me pass. She motioned for me to cross a double yellow line with my infant son in the car, which of course I did not do. I don’t think cyclists should be allowed to ride on roads where there is no bike lane. These country roads are too dangerous, and I would feel badly if I hit someone.

    July 27th, 2010 12:50 pm

  13. ramiero sousa

    Not until Bike riders start abiding by the rules and yielding to the flow of traffic when the opportunity arises.

    The continued arrogance of bike riders if feeding animosity and contributing to the hostility that occurs on the roads.

    There are laws on the books including 22400(a) Minimum speed, impeding normal flow of traffic that officers need to start enforcing on bicycle riders.

    Bike riders are demanding equal rights on the road then they should also start having to license and pay their fair share of the road use costs. Bike lanes and the Vacant pavement aren’t free putting the bill on the backs of auto owners and then taking away lanes from streets isn’t exactly contributing to the overall portion you are taking away from others and it compounds traffic flow

    This isn’t a one way street if you want to share the road Then reciprocate and SHARE the ROAD.

    July 27th, 2010 12:59 pm

  14. Moto

    I don’t know why I read articles like this and the comments afterwards, as they are always filled with vitriol from both bicycle riders and drivers. And saying you do both doesn’t really add to your credibility, as in reality, most cyclists ALSO drive. Most of those that don’t, probably lost their license because they were bad drivers in the first place. This also means we’ve all learned the rules of the road when taking our drivers test. Both car drivers and bicyclists equally break the laws, you just read about car drivers killing/injuring people or damaging property more often.

    Both camps apply double standards. It’s very easy to cite misdeeds about the other and conveniently ignore those committed by those in the same camp as you. Yes, cyclists run stop signs, but so do motorists. Motorist frequently fail to use their turn signals, but so do cyclists. Cyclists may be slow, but so is the idiot taking up the lane while trying to find an address, or the ranch worker driving his tractor down the road without a license.

    July 27th, 2010 1:18 pm

  15. wayne

    I used my bike to commute for many years. I don’t ride as much as I used to now. I used to ride with a group but stopped because they were weekend riders who took the share the road to mean that cars must accommodate them. Yes, there are jerk drivers out there who have the bigger and heavier so make room for me mentality. But my experience is that a higher percentage of bike riders are rude to drivers rather than the other way around. A lot of riders feel they have the same right of way as a pedestrian in a cross walk. But that is not the case. Cars don’t have to go out of their way to accommodate you although most will anyways (I say most not all). It’s the riders that make the motorist accommodate them even when unnecessary that give us riders a bad name. And no matter what my fellow riders say, there are plenty of those types of riders around. If could slice away all the fat and leave the meat of my issues with motorists. It’s the one’s who don’t look in their side view mirror before opening their car door. But aside from that, if your courteous to drivers, they’ll more likely that not, return the favor.

    July 27th, 2010 1:37 pm

  16. CommonSense

    Ronald hit the head on the nail.

    I see more bicyclists breaking the law the drivers.

    They don’t follow rules as they should. Like my two pet peevs

    1. Using the Sidewalk when there is a clear bike lane.

    2. Pushing the Pedestrians cross walks buttons.

    Your on a freaking BIKE. YOUR NOT A PEDESTRIAN.

    July 27th, 2010 6:39 pm

  17. M. Watercress

    2. Pushing the Pedestrians cross walks buttons.
    You’re on a freaking BIKE. YOU’RE NOT A PEDESTRIAN.
    by CommonSense

    Pushing the cross walk button is a common practice when the inductive loop sensors in the road aren’t working properly. This is a very common problem so there is a very good chance that these cyclists are just trying not to be seen as scofflaws.

    July 27th, 2010 10:00 pm

  18. Patrick


    as Watercress stated the inductive loops do not always register bikes. There is one light on my morning commute to work like this so I have to push the button to get a green, or make a left turn against the light.

    Sidewalk riding is not illegal in Santa Rosa, expect where there are signs prohibiting it, like the downtown area. The sad part is that some riders think riding on the sidewalk is safer, when in fact it is more dangerous. As drivers are generally not looking for fast moving bikes on sidewalks, making car/bike collisions more likely then if the bike rider had been in the street.

    July 28th, 2010 9:53 am

  19. Vickie

    I live in Bennett Valley and the Tour Groups love to use our rural roads for very large groups of bike riders. While some of these bike riders seem to know the rules of riding single file, most don’t. Our roads are narrow and have blind curves, and are full of potholes, in other words, I have no idea why they are bring tourist into Bennett Valley that can barely control their bikes on roads that are pretty dangerous, meaning no bike paths and high speeds. I have even seen their own Tour Vans almost hit bike riders that paid for the privledge to ride their bikes, that was really bad.

    I have no problem sharing the road as long as the bike riders follow the same rules that the vehicles do. I don’t think they have done away with those handbooks yet. It seems that most of the problems are with the more casual rider then the hardcore rider.

    It comes down to the same problem that is in every part of our lifes, respect for each other and playing by the rules.

    July 28th, 2010 2:01 pm

  20. Dave Rogers

    Whichever public officials afforded bicycles the same right of way as cars ON THE ROAD was clearly delusional. The road and its laws were made and designed for CARS and MOTORcycles. If bicycles want to be on the road they should have a class C M1 license like motorcyclists and obey the laws that other registered and licensed users of the road follow… this includes turn indicators, a license plate (so cyclists can be reported as easily as they report cars) mirrors, and INSURANCE… after all YOURE ON THE ROAD… and PS cyclists… STAY OFF RIEBLI ROAD its barely wide enough for two cars… go get your exercise or practice for the Tour d France somewhere else.

    August 1st, 2010 2:42 am

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