Bicycles in the 2013 California Driver Handbook

CA DMV California Driver Handbook 2013

I haven’t looked the California Driver Handbook since 2010. Since then, the DMV has added significant bicycle safety content.

As in previous editions, several paragraphs are devoted to cyclist rights. The 2013 edition expands on this section by explaining sharrows and describing situations where cyclists might cycle down the middle of the lane.

Perhaps more importantly, the 2013 Driver Manual integrates bicycle safety throughout the text, reminding those behind the windshield that bicycles can be expected on California roads.

Bicycle facilities in the Driver Handbook

2013 DMV driver handbook sharrows and bike lanes

Along with the text similar to what DMV published before about cyclist rights and responsibilities, the 2013 edition explains shared lane markings (aka sharrows), bike lanes, and situations when cyclists might take the entire lane.

Here’s what this section says about sharrows, bike lanes, and lane use.

Shared Roadway Bicycle Markings (Sharrows)

Sharrows are used to remind motorists that bicyclists are allowed to lawfully use this portion of a lane. Sharrows are used to assist bicyclists with positioning on a shared roadway. They also alert motorists of the location a bicyclist may occupy within the traveled roadway.

Bicycle Lanes

A bicycle lane is a designated traffic lane for bicyclists, marked by a solid white line, typically breaking into a dotted line ending before it reaches the corner. Different from a simple white line showing the edge of the road, a bicycle lane follows specific width requirements and is clearly marked as a bike lane.

  • Treat a bicycle lane the same as other traffic lanes.
  • Do not turn into the lane if there is a bicyclist in the bike lane.
  • Do not obstruct bicycle traffic by reducing the width required for safe bicycle passage, typically 3 to 4 feet.

When you are making a right turn and are within 200 feet of the corner or other driveway entrance, you must enter the bicycle lane only after ensuring there is no bicycle traffic, and then make the turn. Do not drive in the bicycle lane at any other time.

You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.

Drivers of motorized bicycles should use bicycle lanes carefully to avoid collisions with bicyclists.

Bicycles in Travel Lanes

When passing a bicyclist in the travel lane ensure enough width for the bicyclist, typically 3 feet. Do not squeeze a bicyclist off the road.

Bicyclists may occupy the center of the lane when conditions such as a narrow lane or road hazard make it unsafe to ride in a position that may provide room for a vehicle to pass. With any slow-moving vehicle or bicycle, drivers should follow at a safe distance. When it is safe the bicyclists should move to a position that allows vehicles to pass. Remember, bicyclists are entitled to share the road with other drivers.

Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers.

Bicycles as an expected part of traffic

Just as importantly as descriptions of bike facilities and a section on cyclist rights and responsibilities is pervasive text noting the presence of bikes as a normal part of traffic. The discussion on right-turn-on-red, for example, says:

You can make a right turn against a red light after you stop then yield to pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles close enough to be a hazard.

Similarly, the YIELD sign description says:

A three-sided red YIELD sign means you must slow down and be ready to stop, if necessary, to let any vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian pass before you proceed.

Other examples include:

  • Lane changing: “Before changing lanes, signal, look in all your mirrors, and … look for all vehicles, motorcyclists, and bicycle traffic in your blind spot.”
  • Right turns: “Watch for bicyclists or motorcyclists who may get between your vehicle and the curb.”
  • Parallel parking: “When you are ready to exit your vehicle, look carefully for passing vehicles, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Do not open the driver’s side door unless it is safe to do so and you do not interfere with traffic. Do not leave the door open any longer than necessary.”
  • Driving at night: “Pedestrians and bicyclists are much harder to see at night; so stay alert for them.”
  • Horn use: “Don’t use your horn if a driver or bicyclist is going slowly, and you want him or her to drive faster or get out of your way. The driver or bicyclist may not be able to safely go faster, due to illness, being lost, intoxication, or having mechanical problems with the vehicle.
  • Passing: “Avoid passing other vehicles, including motorcycles and bicycles, on two-lane roads; it is dangerous. Every time you pass, you increase your chances of having a collision. When you pass a bicyclist, be patient. Slow down and pass only when it is safe. Do not squeeze the bicyclist off the road.”

The sample drivers’ license tests at the end of the handbook also includes a couple of bicycle-related questions.

These are just representative examples. Read the full text of the 2013 California Driver Manual here. H/T to Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition for the heads up, which notes the importance of advocacy to get those kinds of changes into the booklet.


  1. “Do not obstruct bicycle traffic by reducing the width required for safe bicycle passage, typically 3 to 4 feet” Sigh. Three to four feet is the door zone.

    Overall, I’m glad they updated it though.

  2. Does the updated manual deal with behavior at intersections where most cyclists and motorists (in my area at least) apparently believe cycists in the bike lane have to yield to cars turning right, make room for right turning cars by moving onto the sidewalk ramp,sidewalk or hugging the curb and press a button of some sort. Even when there is a right hand turn lane to the right of the bike lane almost every cyclist I observe vacates the bike lane to press a button and then waits with one foot on the curb or on the sidwalk. Several locals cyclists I’ve talked to think they need to press the pedestrian crossing button to “get a green light”

  3. “You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.”

    Oh, look. Somebody was trying to be cutesy and ended up saying something ridiculous.

    “A and/or B” means:
    A and not B, or
    not A and B, or
    A and B both.
    So the above sentence means that you can park in a bike lane…
    * if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and there is a no-parking sign,
    * if your vehicle blocks a bicyclist and there is no no-parking sign,
    * if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and there is no no-parking sign.

    The first two are flat-out wrong. (The third is arguably wrong too, but that’s not the point of my post.)

    They should change “and/or” to simply “and” in order to correct their booklet. As a bonus, they make it less clunky and more readable too.

  4. “Collisions Are Not Accidents. An “accident” implies an unforeseen event that occurs without anyone’s fault or negligence. Most often in traffic, that is not the case.”


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