Ask a Bike Cop: Cell Phone and Bike Lanes

Have a law enforcement question regarding bicycles? I will attempt to answer one bike related question each week. Please post your questions in the blog. See first post (July 3rd) for disclaimers.

Have a law enforcement question regarding bicycles?  I will attempt to answer one bicycle related question each week.  Please post your questions in the blog.  See first post (July 3rd) for disclaimers. 


Welcome to this week’s Ask a Bike Cop post.  I apologize for the delay between posts.  This week’s question comes from Tim Thulin who asks:

Aaron, one of my pet peeves is people stopping in the bike lanes to talk on their phones. They are stopped in a traffic lane (one they are restricted from), can they be cited for using their phone while driving? Would it be any different if they just stopped in any traffic lane to use their phone? Can they be cited for both using their phone and parking illegally?


Answer: Very Likely, Yes

Section 23123(a) of the vehicle code states


A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.


The key word here is “drive.”  Usually that means a vehicle in motion.  However, a California Appeals Court in 2011 ruled that a motorist stopped at a red light was in violation for talking on his cell phone while driving.   (see sfgate article http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Court-Cell-phones-not-OK-to-use-at-red-light-2289460.php)  Your example is a bit different and would depend on the circumstances.  If the person answered the phone and pulled into the bike lane, then yes that would be a violation.  If the car pulled over, put the car in park, then picked up the phone, then it could be a violation of cell phone use while driving.  Either way you bring up a good point. 


In regards to cars in bicycle lanes, the vehicle code (section 21209) outlines 3 reasons for a car to be in the bicycle lane

(1)    To park where parking is permitted.

(2)    To enter or leave the roadway.

(3)    To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.


Otherwise it is a violation.  This was confirmed by Traffic Bureau Officer John Metz, who also pointed out a vehicle can be cited for 22400(a) VC, which states:

No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law.


No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.


So yes, you can be cited for both talking on the phone and stopping in the bike lane.  For those that drive, please find a lawful parking location or pull off the road completely into a parking lot to talk on your phone.  For riders, remember to ride defensively as if the driver doesn’t know you are there. 


Thanks Tim for the great question. 


Bike Safe,

Sergeant Aaron Medina

Napa PD

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Antoine M August 30, 2012 at 02:51 AM
This is a great program serving the inquiries of the public! Thank you Bicycling Sergeant Medina
Tim Thulin August 30, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Thanks Aaron for the complete and well researched answer. I'll share this with my friends.
shane August 30, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Sounds like common sense to me. Oh, gee.....yep...thats yet another reason why we have Police. Duh
Louisa Hufstader August 30, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Yes: Many sincere thanks to our bike-cop-blogger Sgt. Aaron Medina for contributing on a subject of strong and growing community interest. Aaron, did you see all the families on bikes during Porchfest? Napa is starting to look like the Davis of Wine Country!


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