As a bicyclist, I frequently ride around Alameda on our beautiful trails around the San Francisco Bay. While riding on these paths, I often encounter pedestrians sharing the trail. As a matter of safety, I call out to pedestrians when approaching them from behind to warn that I am approaching. I also slow up while passing so I can take proper evasive action if the pedestrian starts to move into my path of travel. However, I often see bikers zoom by these pedestrians without warning. I consider such conduct reckless. Now California courts have recognized the bicyclist can be charged with driving a “vehicle” recklessly under California Vehicle Code section 23103.
Vehicle Code section 23103 states “(a) A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. (b) A person who drives a vehicle in an off street parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
In the case of Velasquez v Superior Court (2014), 227 Cal.App.4th 1471, Mr. Velasquez had attended a Dodgers baseball game. Apparently, he had a lot to drink at the game, as his blood alcohol level at the time of his accident was .218, two and a half times above the legal limit. He left the stadium on his fixed gear bike, which has no conventional brakes. As he drove down a hill, he veered onto the wrong side of the road to avoid a car that pulled in front of him and drove into a pedestrian. The pedestrian sustained broken facial bones, memory loss, and a loss of consciousness. Mr. Velasquez was charged with reckless driving. He tried to avoid the charges by claiming that he was not a “vehicle” within the meaning of the statute and therefore he could not be charged with such a crime. The appellate court disagreed, holding that a bicyclist can be subject to the same criminal penalties as a motorist when they are operating their bikes in a reckless manner.