CHP: Driver faultless in head-on collision with cyclist

Allen Brumm was participating in an open road time trial Sunday morning when he was hit head-on by the 35 year old driver of a car who had changed lanes to pass on County Road 19, a rural two-lane road in Yolo County, California west of Sacramento. As you can see from the Google Streetview near the collision location, you can see almost to the horizon on this road.

Yolo County County Road 19

According to CBS Sacramento:

A bicycle race time trial turned tragic Sunday when a cyclist was hit and killed on the route by a driver who cops say was obeying the law.

[CHP Sgt. Andy Hill] says the driver was following the “move over law” for bicycles when she went around one cyclist on her side of the road, but didn’t see Brumm in front of her.

Did you catch that? Sgt Hill says the 3 foot passing law is to blame. I hope this is just media misquote of what Hill might have really said.

At the very least, the driver could (and probably should) be cited for violating CVC 21751, which requires the passing driver to wait for the oncoming lane to be “free of oncoming traffic.” We’re required to slow and wait until it is safe to pass.

Passing Without Sufficient Clearance 21751. On a two-lane highway, no vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.

The Sac Bee article on this collision apparently reveals more blatant law enforcement ignorance on traffic law when Sgt Hill places some of the blame on Blumm for failing to ride in the soft shoulder when he was hit head-on.

Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible, said [CHP Sgt Hill].

California’s far right law is CVC 21202, which applies only in the presence of other, faster traffic traveling in the same direction. Excluding the long list of exceptions that allow cyclists to “take the lane” where necessary, the law says:

Operation on Roadway 21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway….

With sincere condolences to Mr. Brumm’s colleagues, friends and family. The CHP incident log can be found here.


  1. Also, as far to the right as “possible” and as far to the right as “practicable” are not at all the same thing. More than a few law-enforcement types get this wrong.

  2. Discouraging that this still is confusing to so many folks. I hope the official report more accurately states the issues and that a successful civil suit will follow.

  3. Let’s not forget that we’re hearing the driver’s version of what happened, not the cyclist’s. Until we can stop police officers from citing laws incorrectly and siding with drivers, cycling will never be safe.

  4. Yup, “practicable” is not understood or defined well. Cyclists do not want to ride in dirt and tire-damaging debris. A citation that Richard mentions would make a civil suit so much easier. Condolences!

  5. How in the world can the officer say the driver was obeying the law, when they passed unsafely? If the driver passed the cyclist and hit another car the officer would have said the driver moved into the on-coming traffic and caused the accident. Additionally, how bad a driver is this person to not see what is going on around them, its a 2 lane rural road with no sight line obstructions.

  6. I wrote something about three foot pass laws in response to my experience, which has been that in urban areas drivers are very quick to pass cyclists even when the cyclists are going the speed limit (like, it’s shockingly common in Providence for me to get passed going down a steep hill when I know I’m going 25 mph, easily). I also get passed a lot on curves, which sounds a lot like this situation. People passing on curves or when there isn’t a clear section of road is irresponsible, but the root of the problem is mixing bikes with cars.

    The feedback I got from Dutch bike writer David Hembrow was that the Netherlands has no such law. He feels like 3-foot pass laws are unnecessary to biking progress. I think Americans ought to look less to our past efforts and more to countries that actually have cycling to get success in dealing with these problems.

    The picture you show is a rural road, so to that end I would say that the situation is different. But my overall feeling is that these 3-foot pass laws are a distraction. What would have saved this person’s life would have been infrastructure, not better enforcement of 3-foot pass laws.

    I think the driver is culpable, but the infrastructure is what’s truly to blame. Good people drive badly. Good infrastructure takes good people’s bad mistakes and makes them moot.

    See the article:

    Thank you for your work.

    –James Kennedy
    Transport Providence

  7. If the defense in the civil trial is going to make the case that the CHP indicated it was the cyclists fault for not riding his time trial bike on a rutted dirt and gravel shoulder, then I think there should be grounds for a follow-up suit against the individual CHP officer and his division, because his incorrect conclusion would have likely lowered the award amount. Because the CHP officer did not even know the law (possible vs practicable), there should be sufficient grounds, unless the award was on the high side compared to similar cases.

  8. 3 foot passing law is useless, unless you happen to have a cop who saw it, or have a incident, where there is a witness, otherwise, is he say, she say….

    Having done some time trials…where is customary to have your heads down and not looking at the road, I’ll say its damn dangerous for organizers to stage it on a open road..

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