CORRECTION (Published 5/17/2013)

A Pleasant Hill resident quoted in Tom Barnidge's column was incorrect in stating that there is no bicycle rack outside Pleasant Hill's City Hall.

If there was any doubt about the ubiquity of bicycles in California, it was put to rest this month. The state Department of Motor Vehicles, which, as the name suggests, oversees motorized transportation, has unveiled a website dedicated solely to bicycle safety. Pedal power has officially become a force too large to ignore.

This is not exactly a new phenomenon, and California has always been on the cutting edge. The first bike lanes in the U.S. appeared in Davis more than 45 years ago, thanks to a City Council mandate. Bike paths, bike routes and bike crossings have sprung up since then in nearly every community in the state.

After a day of work in Shadelands Business Park, Lynda Couch of Martinez rides home along the  Contra Costa Canal Trail near North Wiget Lane on Bike to
After a day of work in Shadelands Business Park, Lynda Couch of Martinez rides home along the Contra Costa Canal Trail near North Wiget Lane on Bike to Work Day in Walnut Creek on May 9, 2013.(Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group) (SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD)

BART now accommodates bikes on all trains. The east span of the Bay Bridge features a bike path (even if it ends at Treasure Island). The Metropolitan Transportation Commission extends transportation grants to cities that include bike paths in their development plans.

May is National Bike Month. Thursday was Bike to Work Day. Next weekend the Bay Area hosts the final stages of the Amgen Tour, which happens to be the nation's biggest bike race.

So the DMV is right. It's a good time to stress bike safety. A few of its tips, since you asked:

  • Wear a helmet, even if it doesn't look fashionable. An overlooked pothole or unexpected curb can do more than muss your hair.

  • Ride in the same direction as traffic. This makes you more visible to drivers entering roadways or changing lanes and less likely to become a human speed bump.

  • Use hand signals to indicate turns or slowdowns. If you didn't know such things exist, check with Grandpa.

  • Obey traffic signals as if you were driving a car. This will be a new experience for bikers accustomed to flying through stop signs at intersections.

    The DMV site also explains that bicyclists are subject to more than a dozen laws cited in the state vehicle code. If you want to read them for yourself, refer to sections 21200-21212 and 39000-39011. If not, here are some highlights:

  • It's just as unlawful to operate a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol as it is to operate a car. If you're pulled over, a cop can administer a sobriety test.

  • If your handlebars are elevated higher than your shoulders when you're pedaling, that's against the law. It's also pretty uncomfortable.

  • When riding on a roadway at night, a bike must have a head lamp visible by approaching traffic from 300 feet; a tail reflector visible from behind from 500 feet; and yellow reflectors on a rider's ankles, shoes or pedals visible from 200 feet. If you're lousy at judging distances, just ride during the day.

  • Two other things: 1) Passengers are permitted only if they are astride the bike and in a seat separate from the operator; 2) It's illegal to park a bike on the sidewalk if it obstructs pedestrian traffic. Otherwise, pedal on as you please.

    You never know when a bicycle issue will come up. One arose last week at a Pleasant Hill City Council meeting, where the topic on everyone's mind was the dome theater.

    Before voicing her support for the dome, a speaker said she had pedalled her bike to the council chamber and had a gripe to air.

    "I was very disappointed," she said, "to find no bike rack outside."

    Bicycles are everywhere these days. Even on a website operated by the DMV.

    Go to the bicycle safety website at www.dmv.ca.gov/coi/bicycle/bicycle.htm. Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.