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There’s a new law about driving past a bicyclist? Ask the lawyer

Q: California seems to have a law for everything and every occasion. And now, if we are driving and are passing someone on a bicycle, we have to move to the left lane?

F.M., Lennox

Ron Sokol
Ron Sokol

A: The law for almost 10 years was that a California driver is required to keep a distance of three feet when passing a bicyclist. As of Jan. 1 this year, that was modified to require a driver to change lanes, when possible on a multilane street, in order to provide more space for the bicyclist as the driver passes. To be clear, the driver only has to move to the left, if in fact a lane is open. If not, then the driver is to slow down and pass when it is safe.

Q: I saw a man and his kid on their bikes driving against traffic — we were going north in our cars, they were against the curb but driving south on their bikes.  Is that OK?

B.K., Laguna Beach

A: California Vehicle Code Section 21650 sets forth, “Upon all highways, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway …”  This includes bicycles. Section 21650 does contain possible exceptions (which you can and should read about online, including if the road is under repair or construction).

Q: Are e-bikes still legal in California?

W.M., Huntington Beach

A: E-Bikes, considered Class 3 (28 mph as the top speed) were banned from all multi-use paths, and local jurisdictions were entitled to also ban Class 1 and 2 e-bikes (20 mph top speed). Now the law is such that local jurisdictions may prohibit any class of e-bike from paths, but e-bikes will be allowed if no local ordinance is adopted.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 40 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

Source: Orange County Register

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