Legislation: Bicycle-specific turnout law for California?

Some of you who studied for your driving license test might know about CVC 21656 in California. This is the law that requires the operators of slow-moving vehicles — including bicyclists — to pull over when five or more other vehicles pile up behind you. Because one law that already addresses the issue isn’t enough, California 5th Assembly District Representative Frank Bigelow from Madera County, CA introduced Assembly Bill 208, which is a bicycle-only version of the very same law.

Crossing the centerline to pass

The current law CVC 21656 says:

On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. As used in this section a slow-moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.

AB 208 adds similar language to CVC 21760, which is the California Three Feet for Safety law. It says that if a motor vehicle cannot pass with three feet to spare, the cyclist is required to pull over when safe when more than five vehicles stuck behind the cyclist on a two lane road. I routinely pull over for a even a single vehicle if I know there’s no safe passing zone ahead.

Cyclists are already required to pull over when five or more vehicles are following and cannot pass safely, so this bill is superfluous. It appears somebody may have informed Bigelow of that fact since his latest action has been to cancel the hearing that was scheduled for discussion of this bill.


  1. Do you know if the existing law applies when the road has two general lanes in each direction? Or are cyclists then allowed to always take the lane since traffic behind them can switch lanes to pass?

  2. I drive on Highway 128 and wish the COps would enforce this law against all the motorists that violate this law. I have spent at least 20 minutes following these drivers(?) who can’t seem to follow the rules of the road inspite of signs that tell them what to do land where the turnouts are. I don’t believe I have ever held a driver up on this road by more than a minute when on my bike. Most drivers barely slow down to pass me on my bike. I’ll gladly pull over for drivers when they start pulling over as required by the current law.

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