What Road Position Should You Maintain When You Ride Slower Than The Traffic?

It seems like a great idea to examine some different parts of the bicycle law in California to make sure that cyclists understand exactly what they should be doing when they ride.

The more educated we all are (car and truck drivers included) the less chance there is that you’ll need to use our Bicycle Accident Assistance app.

The California Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV) lists all the current road rules on their website.  Each different section is a separate page and it makes it really easy to look up any information you need.  Occasionally what riders and drivers believe to be the law as actually not true or has become confused over time.  It helps to go to the source and get the facts direct.

We are going to talk about the road position you should maintain as a cyclist, specifically when you are moving slower than other traffic.  Obviously you are often going to be slower than other traffic, so you should be aware of your rights and also what is safe for you to do.

When you’re riding your bicycle on a roadway with the traffic, here’s some things to remember.

You need to keep to the right, as close as practicable, to the kerb or the edge of the roadway.  Sounds simple enough and fairly obvious too.  But you should note that the active word here is practicable.  It does not say possible.  This means that you only have to ride as far right as is safe for you to do so.  You don’t have to be as far right as it is possible for you to ride.

Here are the exclusions to keeping right as listed by the California DMV:

  • When you are overtaking another bicycle or a moving vehicle you may do so on the left.
  • In preparation for a left turn, whether that is into a street or a private driveway or private road.
  • When there is good reason to avoid an obstacle.  Road conditions such as loose gravel or uneven surfaces and even holes are all best avoided and you should move left.  Stationary items on your path, animals, broken glass or a parked vehicle are all great reasons to move left before you injure yourself.
  • Should there be a chance of another bicycle or a vehicle crossing your path as they exit left or right, then you have the option to move left.

Don’t forget that you should always signal before you move left or change your road position.

Some cyclists believe that they have the right to use an entire lane no matter the speed of the traffic.  This is not the case.  Should there be a single lane in one direction and it is too narrow for a a cyclist and a motor vehicle to share the lane then you may ride in the center.  If there is no area where legal and safe overtaking can occur, a cyclist must pull over in a safe place to let cars pass when 5 or more cars have built up behind them.  This rule actually applies to all slow vehicles using the roadway, not just to those riding a bicycle.

Remember we reword some of the actual law to make it easy to understand.  If you would like to see the exact wording you can check CVC21202 here.  Keep reading the blog to learn more about California bicycle law and keep yourself safe!

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