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Bicycle Safety

As of September 2014, motorists are required to abide by the “three-foot rule” when passing bicyclists on the road. While there is no tried-and-true test to measure 36 inches while in the action of driving, if a vehicle’s open door would touch the cyclist, the vehicle is likely too close. Motorists found in violation of the law will face a $35 fine. Additionally…

Motor vehicle drivers must:

  • Pass a bicyclist as they would a slow-moving vehicle. Pass with caution, and only when safe.
  • Look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning.
  • Safely merge toward the curb or into the bike lane.
  • Not overtake a bicyclist just before making a turn. Merge first, then turn.
  • Be careful when approaching or passing a bicyclist on a freeway.


  • Must obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
  • Are lawfully permitted to ride on certain sections of freeways, in some rural areas where there is no alternate route.
  • Must ride in the same direction as other traffic, not against it.
  • Shall ride as near to the right curb or edge of the roadway as practical– not on the sidewalk.
  • May legally move left to turn left, to pass a parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, animal, make a turn or avoid debris and other hazards.
  • May choose to ride near the left curb or edge of a one-way street.
  • Should ride single file on a busy or narrow street.
  • Must make left and right turns in the same way that drivers do, using the same turn lanes. If the bicyclist is traveling straight ahead, he or she should use a through traffic lane rather than ride next to the curb and block traffic making right turns.
  • Must signal all their intentions to motorists and bicyclists near them.
  • Must wear a helmet if under the age of 18.
  • Should carry identification.
  • Shall not operate a bicycle on a roadway during darkness unless the bicycle is equipped with:
    • A brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on the dry level, clean pavement.
    • A front lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet.
    • A rear red reflector which is visible from a distance of 500 feet.
    • A white or yellow reflector on each pedal visible from a distance of 200 feet.

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. Be patient when passing a bicyclist. Slow down and pass only when it is safe. Do not squeeze the bicyclist off the road. In the event of a bicycle accident or collision, a bicycle accident lawyer in San Francisco can help navigate your case for injury compensation.

Under “Road Workers and Work Zones”? we find this discussion:

In work zones where lanes are narrow or where the shoulder is closed, watch for bicycles and “share the road”? when they are present.

The current DMV test for California drivers license also has questions about sharing the road with cyclists. Some questions I’ve heard of and seen on sample tests include:

You must look for bicycle riders in the same lanes used by motor vehicles because they:

  • Must ride facing oncoming traffic
  • Illegally share lanes with motor vehicles
  • Are entitled to share the road with you

To make a right turn at the corner, you:

  • May not enter the bicycle lane.
  • Should only merge into the bicycle lane if you stop before turning.
  • Must merge into the bicycle lane before turning.

On a green arrow, you must:

  • Yield to any vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian in the intersection.
  • Yield to pedestrians only in the intersection.
  • Wait four seconds before proceeding.

More Resources

How does this compare with your state’s driving manual and driver’s license test?
See the California Drivers’ Handbook here.

You can also search and read the California Vehicle Code regarding bicycles.

And see our Bicycle Safety for Riders and Drivers page.

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