A reader's photo of bicyclists on Bohemian Highway. He wonders if they're riding legally? Click to enlarge


I am sending you this letter and attachment in the hope that you will help educate the biking community to their responsibilities under the law. I  understand and support the individual bicycler’s right to share the road with me. But I do expect that each bicyclist follow the laws that govern their use of the roads.

A prime example of what gives bicyclists a bad reputation happened to me Saturday while driving from Occidental to Monte Rio on Bohemian Highway. The attached pictures shows the pack of bicyclists which were traveling below 20 mph in a 35-mph zone. They were riding three to four abreast and made no attempt to allow traffic the chance to pass, either by following the law or by pulling off the road when there was a pullout. After close to five miles of being obstructed, traffic was forced to pass them using the opposing traffic lane, possibly creating a hazardous situation for everyone involved. It would be great if you could have Jon Sloat (CHP) comment on the attached photo.  Can bicyclist ride in this fashion or could they receive a ticket for obstructing traffic? Matthew

Matthew also added this: Duty of Bicycle Operator: Operation On Roadway. VC 21202: Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

From Road Warrior: CHP Officer Jon Sloat, the spokesman for the Sonoma County office, has addressed this issue before. CLICK HERE to read what he had to say about bicyclists. And CLICK HERE to read what he said about crossing double yellows to pass bicyclists.

Here’s the full California Vehicle Code 21202.  (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.


I’d like to know why the intersection of Pacific Ave, and Mendocino Ave, is configured the way it is. Currently it’s set up so both Pacific Ave, and Bear Cub Way (exiting the Junior College) have a shared through and left-turn lane and a dedicated right-turn lane. What happens during times of heavy traffic, especially when classes just got out at the JC, is that traffic going straight causes traffic turning left to have to wait and traffic waiting to turn left causes everybody behind them to have to wait. It gets even worse when you add pedestrians to the mix. It seems to me that traffic would move much better if there were a dedicated left turn lane with a turn signal and a shared through and right turn lane. Andy


Your recent post on traffic lights reminded me of a question/annoyance I have had for quite some time now. So, I thought now would be a good time.

Ever since the Guerneville/Steele lane area under the freeway in Santa Rosa was reconfigured, there has been a huge problem with the lights there. The worst light is the one at Illinois Ave. and Steele Lane, especially at peak times that the JC has a lot of classes getting out. The timing of the lights is so bad that the conditions get unsafe very easily because cars end up in the middle of Steele Lane all the time. The problem is that there are too many lights that are too close together and they are not timed right. At least, in my opinion. The same thing also happens at the light from the southbound 101 offramp and Guerneville. Is there something that can be done to better time these lights at peak times during the day? Is there something already in the works?  A


This is an occasional feature in which we compile emails from readers commenting on road and traffic issues. You can email them to jim.fremgen@pressdemocrat.com. Please include your town.


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  1. sam

    I worry the photographer was in too much of a hurry on wet, twisty rural roads

    April 8th, 2012 9:44 am

  2. Anne

    The Illinois/Guerneville intersection from the JC is horrendous! I don’t know why they allow left turns at all — if there are more than 2 or 3 cars turning left, the intersection is blocked through the entire green light and turn arrow for the southbound Administration Drive traffic.
    Santa Rosa really needs to update its traffic flow decisions to reflect CURRENT conditions, not those from 20+ years ago!

    April 8th, 2012 9:45 am

  3. John

    The Cycling community has shown that
    #1 They do not know the laws of the road
    #2 They dont care about the laws anyway
    #3 the are uneducated, self absorbed

    April 8th, 2012 9:48 am

  4. Patrick

    In your quotation of CVC 21202 you left out this important nugget-
    (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    This lane is too narow for car to safely pass a bike without crossing the double yellow. So under the above citiation, the bicycle(s) get the full use of the lane.

    Last yere there was a law up (don’t recall hearing if it was signed). That would have made crossing the double yellow legal when passing a bike. It also required that cars give atleast 3 feet of clearance the cyclist when passing.

    April 8th, 2012 9:50 am

  5. Martin Seebach

    There are two roads, San Felipe and Metcalf that lead to my place. Frequently I enter blind corner wondering if there are any bicyclists about to become ‘lunch’ for front bumper of Suburban. After many decades of this I figure it is the spandex cutting off blood supply to their brains. Happy Easter y’all.

    April 8th, 2012 10:17 am

  6. Road.Warrior

    Gov. Brown vetoed the bill last fall. Here’s a past column on that: http://roadwarrior.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/13355/governor-vetoes-bicycle-bill/

    April 8th, 2012 10:17 am

  7. John Pipkin

    As a cyclist looking at the photo, I’d say given the size of that group of cyclists they probably should have notified the county of their group ride.

    I remember a law passing in Texas some years ago preventing large groupings of motorcyclists from riding in a huge pack on the road because it obstructs traffic. Seems to me the same rationale applies.

    I sort of hate calling myself a cyclist now because too many people in the community have given it a horribly bad rap and make it less safe for me on the road.

    April 8th, 2012 10:44 am

  8. Ryan C.

    Will the Press Democrat be handing over the information of the above driver, who snapped the picture?

    It is, now, illegal for a driver to drive distracted.

    April 8th, 2012 11:21 am

  9. Mike

    Sam.. really? Cyclists need to share the road.

    April 8th, 2012 11:49 am

  10. Debbie

    Yes, the traffic issues near guerneville/steele and the freeway are unbelievable. When is the city going to address this!

    April 8th, 2012 1:14 pm

  11. jon doe

    Bottom line bicyclists think they have the right away everytime and only follow the rules when its in their favor.They feel traffic has to accomodate them, i miss the days when bikes were for the sidewalks..levi wanna bes have to understant and follow the rules, they always feel like other drivers are out to get them but they have to follow the rules!!!

    April 8th, 2012 1:36 pm

  12. Llisa

    So bikers can fill the lane and cars have to be backed up for 5 miles because they would have had to cross the yellow line to go around you??? One of the problems is these huge packs of bikers. They should not be allowed. Packs are not necessary for the enjoyment of bike riding and make the roads very dangerous and congested for everyone.

    April 8th, 2012 3:52 pm

  13. sam

    He says the cyclists were doing 20mph in a 35mph zone. I realize it is a mortal sin to do less than the limit but is this really the reckless menace implied? If it had been a car doing 20 would this be such a catastrophe? I see no place in this picture for the bikes to go and safely allow passing, except just stopping and getting off the road. Roads are not built solely for cars to drive as fast as they would like, they are built for the community to use.

    April 8th, 2012 5:16 pm

  14. Mark

    All of these people would complain if it was a sunny day. Get off your lazy butt and go ride a bike. You might feel a little better an quit complaining about… everything. Get some fresh air and exercise. Just try riding on Sonoma County Roads and you will see how MEAN people are when they drive their cars and pick-ups.

    Share the road? People in cars and trucks hate to share the road! It is Un-American to share the road. It is harder to talk on the phone, tweet, listen to the radio, put on make-up, and get to the store for more booze, if you have to watch out for bike riders. Quit complaining about everyone and everything and get some fresh air & exercise.

    April 8th, 2012 7:08 pm

  15. Shelby

    As an avid cyclist I will have to admit the majority do not fallow the “rules of the road” When I am driving my car I find this frustrating too. I have also experienced a few near misses
    where I almost have taken a cyclist “out”. The fact of the mater is that bikes pretty much have a free pass to do what ever they like. Can you blame them for taking advantage?
    I find the best strategy is to give them lots of space and expect the unexpected.

    April 8th, 2012 7:48 pm

  16. Keith

    I am a bike rider and do not like the reputation these types of bike riders give our community. While most of my time is spent off the road, I do ride the roads occasionally, I do abide by the laws while riding so that people see not all bicyclist are spandex wearing self righteous nuisances. Large groups like this should have pace cars and move over when needed.

    April 8th, 2012 8:06 pm

  17. Randy

    There is more to this growing problem and soon it will need to be addressed through enforcment and through licensing.

    I hate to say it but bicyclists ride with a sense of entitlement. They do not pay road taxes nor do they abide by the laws of the road yet they are a vehicle, they are occupying and using the roads and demanding equal access or an imposing pressence via the creation of bike lanes in place of exisitng vehicular lanes when they are the smallest percentage of road users and back to the original point that they are not paying Road taxes.

    they can claim as they always do that their car registration or other taxes cover their fair share if that is true then why do i have to pay road taxes and registration for my trailer shouldnt my car registration cover that?

    the point is as the masses grow and they continue to inhibit the flow of traffic in these arrogant ways something needs to be done to address the hazards that these riders are creating.

    If they want to share the road then they should share in registering their bikes and paying their fair share of their impact and needs on the roads. bike lanes cost money to build don’t build them with vehicular registration dollars build them through bicycle registration dollars. And please start citing bicyclists who arent sharing the road……. because this is becoming a big problem.

    I ride my bike and i stop at stop signs and ride as close to the esge of the road as i can and that is 6″ or less form the edge. sure i get a flat from time to time and its a little rougher but i let cars pass and i adhere to stop signs……. maybe the rest of the biking community should consider this before there is a whiplash at their arrogance and actions

    April 8th, 2012 9:21 pm

  18. D River

    Hmmm….. isn’t using a phone/camera illegal while driving?
    Doesn’t look like a smart thing to do with those wet conditions.

    April 9th, 2012 8:46 am

  19. WineCountryGirl

    for those of you who are attacking the photographer, it is apparent that the photo was taken from the passenger side of the vehicle (look at the windshield wiper housing).

    April 9th, 2012 12:35 pm

  20. zingasm

    It looks like the passenger may have snapped the pic which means the driver wasn’t ‘distracted’. As a cyclist, I don’t like to have a bunch of cars grouped behind me. A gentle tap on the horn should be a friendly reminder to let the riders adjust their spacing and let you pass. Note, a gentle tap does not mean laying on the horn.

    April 9th, 2012 2:03 pm

  21. Jim

    What WineCountryGirl said. It is probable that a passenger could have taken the picture. Cyclists need to stop being so indignant and self righteous. Have a good day y’all.

    April 9th, 2012 2:23 pm

  22. Jon

    On that narrow country road, which is twisty and bumpy, you’d best just relax, and let whatever is in front of you go at its own pace. Occidental to Monte Rio is mostly downhill, so usually the bikes keep up pretty well.

    April 9th, 2012 4:35 pm

  23. Ryan C.

    I wish I was ‘gusty’ enough to use an alias instead of an actual name, you are no better then ‘Anonymous’ (which probably boils your blood-pressure that much more).

    April 9th, 2012 6:17 pm

  24. Paul

    Among all comments I’ve ever read about riders not getting over, no-one has addressed the fact that the length of riders a car would need to pass is at least doubled, so staying in a pack might actually make it easier to pass, assuming there’s a line of sight and the law would allow crossing the yellow line, which a driver has to do anyway to properly give single-file cyclists adequate berth on roads like the ones drivers express frustration over. Not to mention that the larger the group, the more complicated and time-consuming it is both to re-arrange in single-file and stay that way. All that being said, large groups really should break themselves up into smaller groups so these logistics would be less of a factor. So drivers…please understand this and have a little patience if you come upon a group where riders are abreast and don’t immediately get in single file, and build in a few more minutes to get to your destination so you don’t freak out if there’s a little delay. 99% of us aren’t arrogant; we just sometimes don’t see a safe, efficient way to get over. (It’s more challenging on roads in bad repair or changing grades.)

    April 9th, 2012 9:23 pm

  25. Bill Oetinger

    I have at least skimmed the original post here and all the comments. Unless I missed it, this essential detail has been overlooked: the group in the photo was participating in a sanctioned race, for which the organizers had requested and received a permit. For such special events, the riders are allowed to take the entire lane and are not required to get out of the way of other road users. So, to answer the original sender’s rhetorical question: yes, those riders are riding and behaving legally, under the terms of the event’s permit. There are all sorts of special events on our public roads that constrain the use of the road in some way. A parade is a good example. Do you see people writing foaming rants to the paper about being inconvenienced by a parade? (No.) There are very few bike races staged in this area each year, so the number of occasions when one would see such a large mass of riders taking the lane will be few and far between. As for the more everyday sorts of two-abreast riding that we see out there, that’s another topic for another day. It has been aired out hundreds of times before, with a vast ocean of opinion tossed about but not a lot of solid fact. Let’s leave that one alone for now and concentrate on this incident. The sender used this case to fulminate about all those scofflaw riders. He generalized about ALL bike behavior from ONE incident, and in this case, he had his facts wrong.

    April 10th, 2012 10:13 am

  26. D River

    The photo was taken from the center of the vehicle (right hand shot). Matthew always says “I” not “we”. No where does he imply he had a passenger.
    Every time I get on the road in my car I am endangered by other motorist making stupid moves, usually from being distracted, so my point is, PAY ATTENTION!
    There can always be a surprise around the next corner, and it’s usually NOT a cyclist.
    Yes, there are more cyclist on the road, but cycling tourism is bringing well needed tourist dollars to our county. Give them a break.

    April 10th, 2012 11:09 am

  27. D River

    The main point here should be how to react when you are delayed by a slow moving vehicle(s).
    Matthews reaction was “After close to five miles of being obstructed, traffic was forced to pass them using the opposing traffic lane, possibly creating a hazardous situation for everyone involved.”
    So you take an inconvenience, a delay, and make it into a hazardous situation? No one forced him to do so, it was his choice to break the law.
    Slow down, pay attention and take the safest option when confronted by obstacles in the road.

    April 10th, 2012 4:34 pm

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