Bike Paths Connected Through Crosswalks - What's Legal?
In my rides around the El Cerrito, Richmond, Berkeley area I come across this situation quite often and I'm not sure of the legality involved. I am referring to when a bike path crosses a street and the only connection to the rest of the trail is through a crosswalk.
For those who know this area, I see quite a few examples of this on the Ohlone Bike Trail near the BART tracks (where the crosswalk is usually in the middle of a block). The most dangerous example seems to be where the Bay Trail crosses University Avenue in Berkeley (where the crosswalk is part of a major intersection). I've almost been hit there a few times by unobservant drivers turning right or just coming through the intersection.
Since these are "bike trails" I normally just keep riding through the crosswalk (making sure no car is coming) so I can continue on the trail on the other side of the street. Yet, I read here and elsewhere that there may be traffic laws prohibiting riding in crosswalks. Is that fairly universal? If so, it would seem that these bike trails sort of set us up to break the law. We can't really be expected to get off our bikes at every such crosswalk, can we?
I can certainly live with the idea of committing a small infraction by riding through crosswalks in these situations, but I do wonder about the legality here. If I'm going to get hit by a car, I'd really prefer that the driver be liable.
Any thoughts from some of the experts out there? Thanks!