Are far-to-the-right laws specific to bicycles discriminatory? How do they affect your right as a cyclist to use the road?
Every U.S. state has a “keep right” for vehicles moving slower than the “normal” speed of traffic. 46 states and the District of Columbia also have a far-to-the-right (FTR) law that applies specifically to those on bicycles. Because this law is unique in addressing a very specific class of road users with very subjective requirements (what does “as close as practicable” really mean? And who decides how practicable or safe the edge of the road is?), some cyclist advocates view this as discriminatory. The history of this law seems to indicate that it was written to benefit faster vehicle operators while hindering the operating of bicycles on the roadway.
Several states provide for several exemptions from far-right operation — to bypass obstructions, for example — but even here in California with a very liberal set of exceptions, we have cyclists who are routinely ticketed in some jurisdictions even when they ride in a way that the law very clearly indicates is legal. San Diego Sheriff deputies, for example, say that cyclists who “take the lane” while cycling over shared lane markings in the city of Solana Beach are breaking the law. San Diego has a county court commissioner, Larry Jones, who is openly hostile to cyclists in his courtroom and completely ignores very basic far-to-the-right exceptions in our far-to-the-right law.
Some advocates believe California’s FTR law, CVC 21202, give some law enforcement agencies and traffic court judges opportunity to harass cyclists, in spite of the many exceptions. They feel repealing CVC 21202 would weaken the toolbox available to police who are hostile to cyclists.
Keri Caffrey goes into detail on why she believes FTR should be repealed.