Here’s a question from a reader with an answer from the CHP:

QUESTION: As you likely know, a sinkhole on Asti Road between Zanzi Lane and Old Post Office Road has closed the road for the foreseeable future. I discovered this while cycling south from Cloverdale on Asti toward Geyserville, trying to get back home to Healdsburg. This road happens to be a major artery for cyclists riding from Santa Rosa area and returning to it.

A large sign reads: “Road Closed, use Highway 101,” which is accessible by a nearby entrance.

Here’s my question: As I recall, there is a California law that states that, if no other alternative exists, cyclists are allowed to enter the freeway (riding on shoulder of course) to achieve their intended destination. I lived in Southern California for 20 years and whenever the Marines closed Camp Pendleton between San Diego and San Clemente (for security or whatever) cyclists were allowed to ride on the I-5 freeway.

So today I simply entered the 101 and had a gleeful ride down to the Canyon Road exit, where I got off. I was imagining having a conversation with a Sonoma Co. Sheriff or CHP officer as I pulled over for exercising this “right.” Sure enough, just as I exited at Canyon Road, a Highway Patrol cruiser appeared behind me, but simply let me pedal away. I think the officer may have been scratching his/her head as much as I.

Perhaps you could query the CHP for their thoughts on this matter. MANY cyclists use this route, especially in winter, as it’s warmer up there. My only alternative would have been to turn around, ride back to Cloverdale, take Dutcher Creek Road to Dry Creek. But that does not take me where I wanted to go, which was Geyserville, and so I believe is within the intent of the law.


ANSWER from CHP Officer Jon Sloat: There is no exception in the Vehicle Code under these circumstances. When there is a sign on the on-ramp that prohibits bicycles, pedestrians, etc., they are not allowed, which is the case throughout Sonoma County. The sign that says “Use 101″ is intended for motorized vehicles. I just contacted County Roads, and they advised that the closure on Asti does extend to bikes. They recommend using Asti Store Road, which horseshoes around the closure. In any case, people need to find another way to get by because there is no plan on the horizon to fix the road.

AS FOR ELSEWHERE: Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie Jr. notes that all state highways in District 1 are open to bicyclists. That’s Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake and Mendocino counties.

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  1. Alan Forkosh

    Road signs apply to all users. If the Asti Store Road alternative exists for bicyclists, then the closure sign need to be modified and the detour needs to signed for bicyclists.

    January 11th, 2011 9:07 am

  2. Karen Carter

    My understanding is people CAN ride their bicycle ON HIGHWAYS but NOT FREEWAYS. People ride along HIGHWAY 116 west all the time. Highways have cross traffic and FREEWAYS do not. Highways have specific cross walks; stop signs; flashing lights and stop lights. I’m wondering if this is true and a response.


    January 11th, 2011 9:25 am

  3. jessiecycles

    “My only alternative would have been to turn around, ride back to Cloverdale, take Dutcher Creek Road to Dry Creek. But that does not take me where I wanted to go, which was Geyserville, and so I believe is within the intent of the law.”

    Actually, if you take Dutcher Creek to Dry Creek, you can turn onto Caynon Rd., which, I believe is the exit you took off the 101, and end up in Geyserville. Yes, it may take a little longer, but enjoy the ride and the climbs.

    Hope this helps and keep on pedaling :)

    January 11th, 2011 9:27 am

  4. Sarah

    I used to see people riding on 101 between Petaluma Blvd North S exit and Novato. Is this legal?

    January 11th, 2011 9:41 am

  5. sheryl

    Off topic but, does the CHP have any plans to enforce the reduced speed limit in the construction zone through Rohnert Park? I drive this stretch every day. Most drivers are going a good 65-70 if traffic is not backed up. The Caltrans workers deserve better protection than this. Plz do something.

    January 11th, 2011 10:12 am

  6. crash

    Hwy 101 between Novato and Petaluma is a designated bicycle route, has been for years.

    January 11th, 2011 11:21 am

  7. Patrick

    Yes it is. As there is no signage on the southbound Petaluma blvd on-ramp saying that bikes are prohibited. Also, as I recall, there is a sign at the southbound exit of San Marin Dr stating that bicycles must exit.
    I rode this over the summer and it was not that bad of a ride. On the Northbound stretch, going home, I was out-pacing the car traffic for most of the way.

    January 11th, 2011 11:31 am

  8. Alan

    The Asti road closure is perfectly passable for bicycles. I rode through there just the other day. If there is a sinkhole I sure didn’t see it.

    January 11th, 2011 12:24 pm

  9. Doug Kerr

    A clarification to previous comments. Highway 101 between Petaluma and Novato is not a freeway, so bicycles are and always have been permitted.

    As to riding 101 between Asti and Geyserville, the CHP officer’s interpretation of the law is probably legally correct but most likely would not stand up to a court case. With the sign on Asti Road saying to use 101, this sign applies to all traffic unless otherwise stated. This creates enough doubt that a citation would probably be dismissed.

    The fact that this condition exists at all, along with the CHP officer’s comment that the sign was only intended for motorized vehicles (even though it does not state that) only shows our government still hasn’t recognized that bicycles are a legitimate form of transportation subject to the same rules and rights as motor vehicles.

    January 11th, 2011 12:59 pm

  10. D

    You can ride along Highway 101 between the southernmost Petaluma exits and the northernmost Novato exits because this is a highway and not a freeway. Freeways only have on-ramps and off-ramps. Between Petaluma and Novato, there are at least four roads intersection the highway along with many driveways. These would not be allowed on a freeway. Part of the huge cost of this segment of the freeway widening project is that there will have to be frontage roads along both sides of the highway to accomodate these roads and driveways.

    January 11th, 2011 6:36 pm

  11. Scott Duncan

    Thanks Road Warrior and all the commentators; I never expected my query to get such a response!

    This would be an interesting case, because cyclists do ride on the 101 north of Santa Barbara and on Camp Pendleton. However, are the ‘cyclist prohibited’ signes posted there? I don’t know.

    My thanks to the CHP for their input, and I will follow their direction. I think that Post Office Road horseshoe should solve my problem. :)


    January 11th, 2011 10:10 pm

  12. rik

    hi guys, whilst thats all well and good, i was hoping to plan a trip cycling from S.F. as far up the 101 as i could get. what are your thoghts on that?

    June 14th, 2011 10:39 am

  13. Brendon

    I wouldn’t do that as there are so many other routes that would be much nicer on a bike, if a bit longer. That is a lovely stretch of land between San Francisco and anywhere to the North though, and I would highly recommend going out West from anywhere North of the Gate, and following the coast, at least through Tomales. I’ve done those rides and think they’re just great!

    September 1st, 2011 9:38 pm

  14. John

    I just pedaled from Ventura to Santa Barbara and back along the bike path which is clearly designated along the shoulder of the 101 freeway for about 4 miles. I know of course it’s not illegal, in fact the state RECOMMENDS this route (there’s really no other option) but I have to say, it was 4 miles of pure adrenaline: 18-wheelers plowing by at 65 mph almost within arm’s distance. My body was telling me this was risky behavior, but I guess the state feels otherwise? I’m glad they allow it as there would be no other reasonably direct route between the two, but I have to wonder, does anyone else think this is too risky and has anyone heard of related fatalities? Thanks for the post.

    May 18th, 2013 11:29 am

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