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Remember SCV Bicycle Safety Rules

Local Commentary

Posted: February 19, 2008 6:52 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.
As the Amgen tour rapidly approaches, the Santa Clarita Valley seems to be turning into Bicycle Central. The bicycle is both a mode of transportation that can be used to ride to work or run local errands, as well as a great recreational vehicle. Some people refer to the bicycle as an exercise machine. Even our mayor, Bob Kellar, is sporting a new bicycle, which he uses to keep his body in good physical condition.

But before you get on that new bicycle, it is a good idea to get to know the laws pertaining to riding a bicycle. The city of Santa Clarita offers a Bicycle Safety Program for both young and old. Many older people, who are getting back on a bicycle for the first time in years, think they know the laws in Santa Clarita pertaining to bicycling. But the laws relating to bicycling are very complex, and it would be a good idea to get a refresher course.

Let's start off with bicycling on the street. The law states: Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway, which includes surface streets, has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions dealing with driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs. And while it's legal to ride a bicycle on the street, you must stay as far to the right as is practicable.

According to our city attorney, because every person riding a bicycle is subject to all the provisions applicable to a driver of a motor vehicle, and motor vehicles are not allowed on sidewalks, bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks, either. Bicyclists are also required to walk their bicycles at any intersection. Sheriff's deputies may sometimes look the other way when they see a bicyclist riding on a sidewalk, but if an adult or a child is hit by a motor vehicle backing out of a driveway, it is the fault of the adult or child on the bicycle because they were bicycling illegally.

Using the same legal logic, it is also against the law to ride a motor vehicle on the trail system; therefore it is against the law to ride your bicycle on the trail system. And even if it were legal to ride your bicycle on the trail system during daylight hours, the trail system is considered a park and therefore it is against the law for bicyclists to ride on the trail system after dark. And so a commuter bicyclist coming home from work after dark must ride on the streets.

And if you are wondering why the city has these laws, according to city staff, it's for the "benefit of the majority."

If you want to learn more about the laws of bicycling, gather a group together, call City Hall and ask for the bicycle safety instructor. A date can be set up to meet, whether at your house or at a church, school or any other facility. A VCR Bike Safety Video will be shown; also, the city provides bike safety booklets to be handed out at the safety meetings.

The Santa Clarita City Council funded a Non-Motorized Master Plan in fiscal year 2005-2006 and authorized city staff to conduct the study. Alta Planning + Design was retained to assist with the plan in 2006. The Non-Motorized Master Plan is scheduled to be approved by the City Council some time this year (2008). The idea of the plan is to reduce motor vehicle trips and mileage and to promote walking/biking as a mode of transportation. The plan will create a toolbox to aid various city policies, practices and design standards to encourage non-motorized use.

So enjoy the Amgen tour, ride safely and stay within the law.

John Lukes is a Canyon Country resident and bicycle safety instructor for the city of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.



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