Bikers in Santa Cruz Take the Lane for Safety and Awareness

On May 13th, 2008, a huge mob of cyclists rolled peacefully through the streets of Santa Cruz after a 6pm convergence at the Clock Tower. Bikers spanned city blocks in the right lane of Mission Street to raise awareness about California Vehicle Code Section 21202, cyclists may use the full right lane when the lane “is too narrow for a bicycle to safely ride to the side of a motor vehicle.” Many people wore yellow shirts with a figure of a bike and the words “MAY USE FULL LANE cvc 21202” as they rode westbound on Mission, up Bay, east on King St. and down to the City Council meeting at 7pm.

City Hall was packed with bikers, many of whom spoke eloquently about their experiences on Mission St. and other dangerous routes, including Seabright Avenue. People Power, a local bicycle advocacy organization, declared their desire for City Council to request signs from CalTrans for Mission St. with a figure of a bike and the words “MAY USE FULL LANE.” A discussion of proper signage went out for hours as experts and professionals testified about legal and safety concerns regarding the sharing of a “substandard lane” between motor vehicles and bicycles.

After hearing public testimonies and giving some of their own, councilmembers Mike Rotkin and Tony Madrigal strongly supported the installation of “(bike) MAY USE FULL LANE” signs, however they did not have enough votes from the rest of the councilmembers to pass the motion. The city of Santa Cruz website has the following record for the passing motion regarding Mission Street Signage:

Motion carried to select and approve the signage “Bikes in Lane” (figure 3) pertaining to bicycle safety on Mission Street and direct staff to forward the signage to CalTrans, requesting that it be produced and installed as soon as possible, and to authorize the Mayor or designee to request information from CalTrans regarding the possibility of having large trucks use the inside lanes along the Mission Street/Highway 1 corridor; and to direct staff to develop signs that read: “Bikes May Use Sidewalk” and “Bikes Yield to Pedestrians.”

There is no guarantee the signs will be approved by CalTrans, but there were assurances made during the meeting that CalTrans was supportive of some type of signage to improve safety and awareness for bikers and motorists. If the signs are approved, they will be installed “as soon as possible” which will likely translate to several months according to a CalTrans employee named Dario who spoke and answered questions on behalf of CalTrans. It should be noted that Dario rides he bike to work.

The motion by Santa Cruz City Council to ask CalTrans for signs along Mission Street with a figure of a bike in the middle of the right lane and in front of a car was not the sign advocated by People Power, however director Micah Posner said after the meeting that he was pleased and that they will use the signs and point them out to people. Only Santa Cruz Police Spokesman Zack Friend and City Attorney John Barrisone spoke without intelligence about riding a bicycle and what CVC 21202 means when it reads that cyclists may use the full right lane under the condition that the lane “is too narrow for a bicycle to safely ride to the side of a motor vehicle.”

Crossposted at