Far to the right?

Are far-to-the-right laws specific to bicycles discriminatory? How do they affect your right as a cyclist to use the road?

BMUFL New York State: No Bikes May Use Full Lane signs

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Keri Caffrey goes into detail on why she believes FTR should be repealed.

11 Comments

  • stuart
    November 20, 2013 - 3:20 pm | Permalink

    The whole concept of “sharing” seems to be too confusing for people. Shared lane markings are sometimes used on wide, “shareable”, lanes. But they can also be used on lanes where there position is intended to encourage “taking the lane.”

  • November 20, 2013 - 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I hope they do repeal this.

  • November 20, 2013 - 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I live in a state (MA) that does not have a far-right rule. But I came up against it nonetheless in the form of a city ordinance. Here what transpired: http://iamtraffic.org/equality/making-the-case-for-equality/ .

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  • Uchenna
    November 21, 2013 - 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I believe this law and cyclist adherence to it is the highest cause of cyclist injuries, accidents, and deaths. By riding all the way to the right you basically guarantee:

    1. That people in traffic (and turning into traffic) wont see you,
    2. That you will likely get “doored,” and
    3. That any unforeseen circumstance which requires immediately agility will have you either under a car (riding too close next to you because you’re so far to the right) or running into a parked car.

    This law only made to increase efficiency of motor vehicles (and don’t get me started on buses), not for safety, nor equity.

    To say I really dislike it is an understatement. I never adhere to it, and it keeps me much safer.

  • Anonymous
    November 21, 2013 - 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Here in NYS and NYC we can take the lane. In group riding it is OK, but woe to the lone cyclist who tries it.

  • khal spencer
    November 26, 2013 - 10:55 am | Permalink

    In Los Alamos County, NM, a cyclist can legally take the lane if the lane is too narrow to share side by side. Coupled with the county’s five foot overtaking ordinance, that defines most traffic lanes in the county as too narrow to share. Its not well understood, either by the cops or the citizenry. Cyclists included.

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