Riding a bike can be a fun activity, but just like anything else, it requires knowledge and responsibility. When bikes mix with motorists and pedestrians, the result can be utter chaos without laws in place. When the United States experienced a bike boom in the 1970s, lawmakers had to scramble to create regulations for the millions of bicyclists taking to the roadways. How would cyclists co-exist with traffic? On which part of the road should they ride?
Before the 1970s, bikes were primarily ridden on the roadways by young children. So once adults started riding bikes in larger numbers, there needed to be clear regulations in place to avoid confusion and bicycle accident collisions. At first, bicyclists were considered pedestrians, but then conflicting laws deemed bicyclists to be motorists, which caused frustration for everyone traveling the roadways. The Uniform Vehicle Code eventually established that bicycles, for the most part, have the same rights as motorists except for the fact that they are not allowed on freeways.
While it was established that bikes should ride as far right as practicable on the roadway, this led to misinterpretation. Who determined what was considered ‘practicable’? Did this mean the right curb or on the sidewalk? What would bicyclists do when they wanted to turn left? This confusion led to numerous lawsuits after bicyclists were injured or killed in serious crashes.
California was the first state to adopt the Uniform Vehicle Code. By 1979, 32 states had adopted the code. California’s code added some exceptions, such as making turns and avoiding obstacles. Other states followed suit and became bike-friendly as well.
Riding on the right side of the roadway is now required in all 50 states. In addition, bicyclists must ride their bikes as they would drive vehicles – – they should yield when necessary, follow traffic signals and signs and allow others to pass them on the left. Bicyclists are allowed to use the space they need, which should be minimal considering that bikes tend to be relatively small.
It’s important that motorists share the roadways with bicyclists. Bicycle riding is becoming a more common mode of transportation in California as fuel prices surge and traffic congestion worsens. Lawmakers are supporting this environmentally friendly form of transportation by passing bills to make roadways safer for bike riders.