Q: I often ride my bike to and from work in Santa Monica. I know it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk but I often ride in the street against the flow of traffic so I can see the cars driving toward me. Is this Illegal?

A: Yes. Section 21200(a) of the California Vehicle Code gives bicyclists all the rights to the roadway as a person driving a car; however a bicyclist is also subject to all the provisions of the roadway as drivers of cars. In this case, a bicyclist riding in the roadway shall ride with the flow of traffic and as far to the right as possible. There are some instances when a bicyclist may not ride to the far right, such as passing a parked or slower vehicle and preparing to make a left turn. There are some streets (like Wilshire Boulevard) that are very congested with both traffic and parking lanes and not every street has a dedicated (marked) bicycle lane. Both bicyclist and motorist should exercise care when traveling upon these roads.

City Hall has recently started painting some of the streets with a new marking known as a “sharrow,” short for “shared lane arrow,” as a way to remind cyclists and drivers alike that the road is a shared space for both travel modes. The street marking is a white graphic that combines the classic pictogram of a bicycle with two arrows.

Bicyclists should also be mindful that they are required to stop at red lights and stop signs while out riding as well.

Q: I like to listen to music while I am out riding my bike but I heard there is a law prohibiting me from covering my ears while riding on the roadway. Is there such a law?

A: Yes. Section 27400 of the California Vehicle Code prohibits bicyclists and drivers of motor vehicles from wearing a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears. There are only a few exceptions to this law:

• A person operating authorized emergency vehicles.

• A person engaged in the operation of special construction equipment.

• A person wearing personal hearing protectors to reduce injurious noise levels that are designed so they do not inhibit the wearer’s ability to hear a horn from a vehicle or siren of an approaching emergency vehicle.

• A person using hearing aids.

It’s very important that you are able to hear what is happening around you. By wearing the headset or ear plug in one ear, you can still hear if another bicyclist or motorist is trying to warn you of a potential hazard or collision.

Here are some safety tips before you hop on the bike and ride.

• To identify your bicycle, engrave your driver’s license number (or your parents’) on the frame.

• Register your bicycle with City Hall and keep the serial/model number on file.

• Check your handlebars, bicycle seats and brakes.

• Check your tire pressure.

• Check your first aid pouch for fresh supplies.

• Check your reflectors and light.

• Inspect your helmet and be sure to wear it.

• Maintain the safety of your bicycle by giving it regular tune-ups

• If you are under 18, a helmet is required by law. Be sure it meets the guidelines of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Labels with this information will be inside helmets that have passed their testing standards.

Here are some tips for riding.

• Stay on the right side of the road, ride with traffic and use the bike lane where available.*

• Obey all traffic laws and signals.

• Use hand signals for turning and for all stops.

• Watch for road hazards and cars in driveways.

• Use extra caution in poor or wet weather.

• Wear safe, comfortable clothes.

• Do not allow children to ride a bicycle at night.

• Always lock your bicycle using a U-lock, securing both the wheels and the frame to a stationary object.

*Bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks as they can endanger pedestrians. Likewise, runners/joggers can be cited for using the bike lane.

This column was prepared by NRO Artis Williams (Beat 7, Sunset Park Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0687 or artis.williams@smgov.net.

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