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 on this page. Look for these vehicles and adjust your speed before you reach them.

A Slow Moving Vehicle
A backhoe loader displaying the orange triangle.

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.

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). The 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 driver license is required to operate the vehicle.

Animal-Drawn Vehicles

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.

Motorcycles

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, and 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 a 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 they can easily disappear into a vehicle’s blind spots.
  • Allow a four-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.
  • Motorcycles may travel faster than traffic during congested road conditions and can legally travel in the unused space between two lines of moving or stationary vehicles; this is commonly called "lane splitting."
  • 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.ca-msp.org.

Bicycles

Bicyclists:

A sign telling drivers to share the road with bicyclists.
  • Are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles.
  • Have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle and motorcycle drivers.
  • Must obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
  • Are lawfully permitted to ride on certain sections of roadway in rural areas where there is no alternate route.
  • Must ride in the same direction as other traffic, not against it.

Turns for bicyclists
Diagram showing how cyclists should enter and exit an intersection.
Intersections with special lanes
Diagram of an intersection with special bicycle lanes.

  • Shall ride as near to the right curb or edge of the roadway as practical– not on the sidewalk.
  • Are legally allowed to ride in the center of the lane when moving at the same speed as other traffic.
  • May move left to pass a parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, animal, or avoid debris or other hazards.
  • May choose to ride near the left curb or edge of a one-way street.
  • Should ride single file on a busy or narrow street.
  • Must make 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.
  • Must signal all their intentions to motorists and bicyclists near them.
  • Must wear a helmet if under the age of 18.
  • Should carry identification.
  • Shall not operate a bicycle on a roadway unless the bicycle is equipped with:
    • A brake which will enable the operator to make one braked 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 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.

Bicycles In Travel Lanes

When passing a bicyclist in the travel lane, you should allow at least three feet between your vehicle and the bicyclist, unless doing so would cause a hazard. In these cases, slow down and pass the bicyclist when it is safe to do so.

           Right                                  Wrong
Vehicle properly passing a bicyclist.                  Vehicle improperly passing a bicyclist.

Bicyclists may occupy the center of the lane when conditions such as a narrow lane or road hazard make it unsafe to ride in a position that may provide room for a vehicle to pass. With any slow-moving vehicle or bicycle, drivers should follow at a safe distance. When it is safe, the bicyclists should move to a position that allows vehicles to pass. Remember, bicyclists are entitled to share the road with other drivers.

Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers.

Image of road sign Share the Road with Bicyclists

Respect the right-of-way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with other drivers. Bicycles may be travelling 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.
  • Allow bicyclists enough room to avoid colliding with vehicle doors that are opened into traffic.
  • Merge toward the curb or into the bike lane only when it is safe.
  • Not try to pass a bicyclist just before making a turn. Merge safely where it is allowed, then turn.
  • Not drive in a bike lane unless initiating a turn at an intersection or driveway, and not more than 200 feet in advance.
  • 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 highway or freeway.

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