California Driver Handbook - Sharing the Road
Slow Moving Vehicles
Some vehicles are not designed to keep up with the speed of traffic.
Farm tractors, animal-drawn carts, and road maintenance vehicles usually travel 25 mph or less. Slow-moving vehicles have an orange/red triangle on the back of the vehicles. It looks like the sign in the picture to the right. Look for these vehicles and adjust your speed before you reach them.
A Slow Moving Vehicle
Also, be aware that large trucks, bicyclists, and small-underpowered cars lose speed on long or steep hills and take longer to get up to speed when entering traffic.
Other types of slow-moving motorized vehicles, such as wheelchairs, scooters, neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) and golf carts may legally operate on public roads. Adjust your speed accordingly to accommodate them.
Vehicles proceeding at a speed less than the flow of traffic and moving on a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe, must turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, if a line of 5 or more vehicles forms behind them.
Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) and Low-Speed Vehicles (LSV)
You may have seen lanes marked or signs posted for NEV USE ONLY or NEV ROUTE on roadways in some California towns, especially those near retirement communities and golf courses. When you see these signs or markings, watch out for slow-moving vehicles in the roadway. NEVs and LSVs are restricted from roadways where the speed limit is greater than 35 mph (CVC §§385.5 and 21260). NEV and LSV vehicles reach a maximum speed of 25 mph.
Owners of registered NEVs and LSVs must comply with financial responsibility laws and a DL is required to operate the vehicle.
Horse-drawn vehicles and riders of horses or other animals are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles. It is a traffic offense to scare horses or stampede livestock. Slow down or stop, if necessary, or when requested to do so by the riders or herders.
Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. While everyone must follow the same traffic laws, motorcyclists face additional dangers because motorcycles require exceptional handling ability and are harder to see. Therefore, many motorcycles keep their headlight on even during daylight hours.
From ahead or behind, a motorcycle’s outline, whether 2 or 3 wheels, is much smaller than a passenger vehicle’s outline. Most drivers expect to see larger vehicles on the road and are not looking for motorcycles. Motorcyclists can do many things to make it easier for others to recognize them while increasing their chances of being seen.
- Wear a bright-colored jacket, vest, and helmet.
- Wear reflective material on helmets and clothes.
- Use turn signals when planning to change lanes or turn.
- Flash their brake lights before slowing down to help others notice the motorcycle.
Follow these rules to respect the right-of-way and safely share the road with motorcyclists:
- When you change lanes or enter a major thoroughfare, make a visual check for motorcycles. Also use your mirrors. Motorcycles are small and can easily disappear into a vehicle’s blind spots.
- Allow a 4 second following distance. You will need this space to avoid hitting the motorcyclist, if he or she brakes suddenly or falls off the motorcycle. Motorcycles generally can stop faster than passenger vehicles.
- Allow the motorcycle a full lane width. Although it is not illegal to share lanes with motorcycles, it is unsafe.
- Never try to pass a motorcycle in the same lane you are sharing with the motorcycle.
- When you make a turn, check for motorcyclists and gauge their speed before turning.
- Look carefully for motorcyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning right.
- Remember that road conditions, which are minor annoyances to you, pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement can cause motorcyclists to change speed or direction suddenly. If you are aware of the effect of these conditions and drive with care and attention, you can help reduce motorcyclist injuries and fatalities. For more information regarding motorcycle safety, contact the California Motorcyclist Safety Program at 1-877-RIDE-411 or www.californiamotorcyclist.com.
Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers, including:
- Obeying all traffic signs and traffic signal lights.
- Riding in the same direction as traffic.
- Signaling when changing lanes or turning.
- Yielding to pedestrians.
- Wearing a helmet (if under 18 years old).
Turns for bicyclists
Intersections with special lanes
- Allowing faster traffic to pass when safe.
- Staying visible (e.g. never weave between parked vehicles).
- Riding as near to the right curb or edge of the roadway as practicable.
- Not riding on the sidewalk, unless allowed by the city where you’re riding.
- Making left and right turns in the same way drivers do, using the same turn lanes. If the bicyclist is traveling straight ahead, he or she should use a through traffic lane rather than ride next to the curb and block traffic making right turns.
Bicyclists shall not operate a bicycle on a roadway unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make a one-wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
During darkness, bicyclists should avoid wearing dark clothing and must have the following equipment:
- A front lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet.
- A rear red reflector or a solid or flashing red light with a built in reflector that is visible from a distance of 500 feet.
- A white or yellow reflector on each pedal or on the bicyclist’s shoes or ankles visible from a distance of 200 feet.
- A white or yellow reflector on the front wheel, a white or red reflector on the rear wheel, or reflectorized tires.
Bicyclists have the right to operate on the road and may:
- Lawfully be permitted to ride on certain sections of freeways where there is no alternate route and bicycling is not forbidden by a sign.
- Move left to avoid hazards such as parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, or debris.
- Choose to ride near the left curb or edge of a one-way street.
Bicycles In Travel Lanes
Bicyclists traveling slower than the flow of traffic must ride as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway except in the following situations:
- Passing a vehicle or another bicycle in the same direction.
- Preparing to make a left turn at an intersection, into a private road, or at a driveway.
- When necessary to avoid a hazard or road condition (i.e., pedestrians, animals, surface hazards).
- When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
- When approaching a right turn.
- If the roadway is a one-way road with two or more lanes. In this case, a bicyclist may ride near the left curb or edge of roadway as practicable.
With any slow-moving vehicle or bicycle, drivers should follow at a safe distance, and when it is safe, the bicyclist should move to a position that allows vehicles to pass.
Passing a bicyclist that is in the travel lane at a safe distance may require changing into another lane, passing safely and quickly, and returning to your original lane leaving room between your vehicle and the bicyclist. When you cannot change lanes to pass a bicyclist, allow at least 3 feet between your vehicle and the bicyclist. If you are unable to pass within 3 feet of space, pass at a safe speed to not endanger the bicyclist.
Bicycles may be traveling faster than you think. Do not turn in front of a bicyclist unless there is enough time to safely make the turn. Here are some critical points for drivers and bicyclists to remember. Motor vehicle drivers must:
- Always look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning.
- Pass bicyclists allowing enough room to avoid forcing them into parked vehicles or doors that are open into traffic.
- Merge toward the curb or into the bike lane only when it is safe.
- Merge safely behind a bicyclist when preparing to make a turn.
- Only enter a bike lane no more than 200 feet before starting a turn.
- Make a visual check for bicyclists when changing lanes or entering traffic. Bicycles are small and may be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot.
- Be careful when approaching or passing a bicyclist on a two-lane roadway.