Local News

Here’s a guide to Fifth Street etiquette

By From page A1 | August 21, 2014

bike boxW

Green bike boxes like this one will be painted on Fifth Street and A and B streets. They help protect bicyclists' safety. Courtesy image

Here’s how to drive to keep ’em alive.

While drivers often feel entitled to the entire road, there is one undisputed fact about bicyclists and drivers: In a crash between the two, the bicyclist will take the brunt of the collision; the driver, not so much.

And if there’s one stretch in the city that promises to be ripe for confusion, it’s the new Fifth Street striping.

So before the fall brings a new crop of inexperienced bicyclists to Davis — and new headaches for motorists and more experienced bicyclists alike who have grown accustomed to summer’s quiet — here are a few tips from the city of Davis about how to navigate new and coming striping on Fifth Street and how not to send someone riding a bike to the hospital or worse.

Dave “DK” Kemp, the city’s active transportation coordinator, said the new Fifth Street striping is mostly about bike safety.

“The Fifth Street project employs innovative facilities that are being employed in other bicycle-friendly communities in order to make cycling a safe and comfortable activity,” he said.

Members of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Commission said Monday they are overjoyed at the new striping, which allows them to use Fifth Street without as much fear for their safety as the old, four-lane configuration.

One of the most confusing aspects of the reconfiguration is that the green markings in the bike lane — a kind of thermal plastic with slip-resistant grit embedded in it so bicyclists won’t slip — have made motorists aware of something they should have known with regular bike lanes. Motorists must yield to bicyclists in the bike lane when making a right turn on a green light, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

In fact, drivers have to look for bicyclists before turning left or right, merging into bike lanes and opening doors next to moving traffic, the DMV says.

“Respect the right-of-way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with you,” says the DMV’s “Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Motorists” guide.

That may be hard to swallow for some drivers, but it’s the law. Bicyclists also are subject to the same “rights and responsibilities” as motorists.

And there are special rules for bike riders, such as steering clear of biking while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. If a bicyclist gets busted for such a crime and that person is under 21, but over 13 years of age, one’s driving privilege can be suspended or delayed for one year once the rider is eligible to drive. Otherwise, convictions are punishable by a $250 fine.

Tips the DMV gives to bicyclists are fairly common sense-oriented, like: Wear a helmet, maintain control of your bike, be visible, be alert and communicate your intentions. Bike riders also should ride with traffic, not against it.

At night, state law now requires a white light visible 300 feet away, a rear red reflector visible from 500 feet and reflectors on the pedals or shoes and ankles that are visible at least 200 feet away. Plus, bikes need brakes. Brakes are our friends.

What many motorists don’t know is that bicyclists are only expected to be on the right to the degree that it’s safe, not just out of the path of drivers. Bikes need to avoid parked vehicles and road hazards, such as yard waste piles, and not ride too far to the right when a traffic lane is too narrow for a bicycle and car to ride side by side.

In a month, new rectangular markings at the intersections of A and B streets, called bike boxes, will be laid down. They allow bicyclists to stop ahead of motorists at intersections, to protect them from a so-called “right hook” collision. Drivers are not allowed to turn right on a red light at intersections where there is a bike box.

Also, drivers must wait for bicyclists to clear the bike box before moving forward.

Pedestrians also will get some benefits when the Fifth Street corridor improvements are scientifically evaluated by city staff and permanent striping gets laid down. The time frame for these amenities is not yet known.

At the intersections of C and L streets, the city will install flashing beacons that can be activated by pedestrians and bicyclists alike, just like the ones at Russell Boulevard and California Avenue. The lights let drivers know when someone is passing through the crosswalk. They’re also are hard to miss, especially at night.

Comments? Questions? Criticisms? Email [email protected] or visit traffic.cityofdavis.org.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews.

Dave Ryan

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