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Sidewalk cruising is illegal
Law requires cyclists to ride on streets
A bicyclist waits for a light change on Yosemite Avenue at Main Street. - photo by HIME ROMERO

You’ve seen them before.

• Bicyclists riding on sidewalks.

• Cyclists running stop signs and red lights.

• Riders weaving in and out of traffic.

But then again you see drivers crowding bicyclists on the street.

So who has the right of way?

The answers may surprise you given how a number of Manteca motorists vent about bicycle riders as well as cyclists that grumble about drivers.

One thing is for sure, in vehicle versus bicyclist crashes the odds of a rider walking away uninjured in Manteca are extremely low. While bicycle versus vehicle have accounted for 2 to 5 percent of all traffic accidents in Manteca during the past four years, 10 to 13 percent of all injuries are in vehicle collision involving bicycles.

And the most likely age of bicyclists to get injured in traffic accidents is between the ages of 5 and 14 based on data collected by the Center for Disease Control.

“Under California law, bicyclists must obey the same traffic rules as vehicles,” noted Police Chief Nick Obligacion. 

That also means they have a right to be on the road.

Obligacion noted the most egregious violation committed by bicyclists is running stop signs and red lights.

“They (bicyclists) have to stop just like a vehicle,” the chief said.

California law requires bicyclists to ride with traffic and to stay to the right.

It is also illegal for bicyclists to ride on sidewalks, a legal point that irritates some parents.

Obligacion said officers are not going to tell parents not to encourage younger children to ride on sidewalks if it is “safer” to do so but added if children are old enough to be allowed to ride a bicycle on their own they need to be told they don’t have the right of way. And since it is illegal, parents could assume liability if something goes wrong.

The police chief cited a case where a motorist pulling out of the golf course entrance on Union Road had looked both ways, and when they started to turn struck a bicyclist coming down the sidewalk.

Obligacion said a driver should be looking for pedestrians on the sidewalk and traffic in the street before turning. A bicyclist — or a skateboarder for that matter — rolling down a sidewalk at a pace much faster than a pedestrian is something as driver isn’t looking for.

Parents often times get irked when their children are cited after they either collide with a car or a vehicle collides with them when their kid was bicycling on a sidewalk and was struck while crossing a driveway or entering the street.

In one instance a youthful bicyclist shot off the sidewalk at Northgate Drive on Main Street as a motorist was making a legal right turn on a red light. The young bicyclist hit the car almost midway through the turn. The bicyclist was cited.

The problem of bicycles on sidewalks is exacerbated in commercial districts where there are more pedestrians plus people coming in and out of stores. 

Residents have complained about older bicyclists who aren’t recreational, commute or sport riders rolling down sidewalks at fairly high rates of speed and shooting in front of traffic.

“A lot of them will weave in and out of traffic creating a hazard,” the police chief noted.

Obligacion said another dangerous behavior he sees are of cyclists who are waiting for a light to change not taking one foot and placing it on the ground for stability when they come to a stop. They end up wobbling or — in worst case scenarios — falling over. He said the behavior is worse in recreational/sport cyclists that use clipless pedals that allow easy in and easy out of bindings.

Cutting off bicyclists or crowding them is the most flagrant violations police see of motorists in Manteca.

Drivers will misjudge the speed of a bicyclist and cut in front of them to turn or enter a driveway.

A change in the state law that went in effect seven months ago requires motorists to keep a 3-foot buffer when passing bicyclists.

The California Highway Patrol points out that the law doesn’t require drivers passing cyclists to stay behind bicyclists until a road widens if the road they are on is narrow. It allows drivers to pass with 3 feet providing they do so at a safe speed.