Imagine you’re bicycling alongside stopped traffic in California in a five foot bike lane. Because anything can happen, you’re alert and biking at about 5 to 10 MPH. A door to your left lurches open and strikes you, knocking you to the ground. Who’s at fault, and who wins the civil action when you sue to recover the costs of your medical treatment?
In 2004, Mike Smith was bicycling in a bike lane along Market Street in San Francisco when he was doored by a passenger exiting the right side of a taxi cab. This seems like a clear violation of CVC 22517, which is California dooring law. In trial, however, the jury found Smith 25% responsible for the crash, because California’s passing on the right law (CVC 21754 and 21755) makes allowance only for “the driver of a motor vehicle” to pass on the right under certain conditions.
Because of this legal ambiguity, the California Bicycle Coalition and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition asked lawmakers to amend state law to permit bicyclists to pass on the right.
Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1318 into law. The numerous provisions of this 28,000 word omnibus bill includes this new version to CVC 21755, in which “motor vehicle” is amended to “vehicle,” and paragraph (b) is added to further clarify that cyclists may use a bike lane or shoulder to pass on the right:
SEC. 40. Section 21755 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:
(a) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting that movement in safety. In no event shall that movement be made by driving off the paved or main-traveled portion of the roadway.
(b) This section does not prohibit the use of a bicycle in a bicycle lane or on a shoulder.
This law will become effective January 1, 2011. More at California Bicycle Coalition CALBIKEREPORT. H/T to Jim Baross, Alan Wacthel and others.