California Bicycle Laws – Protection for Cyclists

*Content Updated April, 2023: There are no new laws specifically impacting cyclists in California for 2023, however NBC Los Angeles reports that there are recent traffic safety laws impacting motorists.

Bicycle riding is not a new form or leisure nor is it a new form of transportation. What is new about bicycle riding, however, is the acceptance of the transportation across many different cities throughout California. Many cities and transportation agencies have partnered with companies that allow for a bike-sharing experience, allowing bike riders to rent a bicycle for a nominal fee. Furthermore, the State of California has also passed a series of statutes that regulate how and where bicycle riding is allowed. Generally, these laws can be found under California’s Vehicle Code, as a person who uses a bicycle generally has the same legal rights as auto drivers, California Vehicle Code §21200. These rules and regulations also provide for responsibilities of riders as well as protections for victims of bicycle accidents and injuries. It should be noted, however, that your county or specific city could impose its own separate regulations when it comes to bicycle riding. In these situations, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney who understands your rights and responsibilities as a victim of a bike accident.

California Bike laws

Where to Ride a Bicycle

According to the California Vehicle Code §21202, individuals who ride a bike must ride the bike as close as possible to the right side of a street, except under these conditions:

  • When preparing to make a left turn;
  • When passing another;
  • When attempting to avoid a hazardous road condition;
  • If the street lane is narrow, which disallows for lane sharing; and/or
  • If nearing an area where right turns are permissible.

Regrettably, there are drivers and even certain police officers that fail to recognize when a bicyclist has the right to use a street lane. Facing legal problems because of this, can present serious and complex challenges. Injured riders should consider seeking the qualified advice of an attorney. These laws, and the events leading to an accident can be complex and difficult to lay out in an injury claim.

Using Bicycle Lanes – When roadways have bicycle lanes, riders that travel slower than the general traffic will need to use the designated bike lane when passing others, making left turns, attempting to avoid a hazardous roadway condition, and/or nearing a permissible right turn – California Vehicle Code §21208

Riding Alongside Traffic – Riders need to use on only the right side in a shared street. They will also need to ride in direction of the traffic. Allowable exceptions are when making a left turn, when passing another, while on a narrow road, when on a one-way road, and/or in case the right side of the street is closed because of roadway construction – California Vehicle Code §21650

The Exception of High-Speed Vehicles and Mopeds – It is important to know that class-3 bicycles that have top supported speeds of 28 miles per hour as well as other gas-powered bicycles cannot be utilized on bike paths and/or trails unless it is permissible by local municipalities. These types of bikes could be used on bike lanes and/or detached bikeways next to a road – California Vehicle Code §21207.5. Additionally, these also require the use of helmets and cannot be used by riders under the age of 16.

Slow-Speed Rechargeable Bicycles Are Comparable to Regular Bikes – Class 1 & 2 rechargeable bicycles (with maximum supported speeds of 20 miles per hour) are typically allowed anyplace regular bicycles are permitted unless there is a posted sign that specifically bans electric bikes.

Obstruction on a Bike Path – It is unlawful to park or stop a bike on a bike path – California Vehicle Code §21211

Walkways and Sidewalks – Each city and/or county has jurisdiction on allowing whether bicyclists are allowed to ride on a sidewalk – California Vehicle Code §21206

Freeways –Motorized bicycles and regular bicycles cannot be ridden in expressways or freeways when disallowed by local authorities, including California’s Department of Transportation – California Vehicle Code §21960

Toll Bridges – Cyclists cannot cross toll bridges unless it is allowed by the California Department of Transportation – California Vehicle Code §21960

When serious injuries occur as a result of an accident, one or more of these laws can come into play. The rider and their actions can come into question by insurance companies, and in these situations it is important to have an attorney who can fight aggressively to defend your rights as a bike rider in California. 

Equipping and Preparing Your Bicycle

Equipping your bicycle is very important when it comes to safety. It is also important in terms of abiding by state and local laws. The following are the items that need to be installed on all bicycles. Failing to conform with local and state laws could bring your claim under attack, so preparation is key in the event a bike accident resulting in injuries does occur.

Bicycles – Every bicycle will need to be furnished with brakes that allow the user to complete a brake on a leveled, dry, and clean pavement – California Vehicle Code §21201(a)

Bike Handlebars – When it comes to handlebars, these cannot be set higher than the bicyclist’s shoulders – California Vehicle Code §21201(b)

The Size of the Bicycle – Every bicycle will need to be at an adequate height, enough to allow for the cyclist to stop, with the ability to support the stop with a foot on the floor, and to have the ability to begin again safely – California Vehicle Code §21201(c)

Bike Lights– When riding in night hours or when there is low visibility, a white light should be noticeable in the front of the bicycle. The light should be secured to the cyclist or to the bike – California Vehicle Code §21201(d)(e)

Bicycle Reflectors – When riding in night hours or when there is low visibility, reflectors should be attached to bicycles in the following areas:

  • Noticeable from the rear: red reflector. A flashing or solid red light can be attached in conjunction to the reflector.
  • Noticeable in the front and rear: yellow or white reflectors should be installed on either pedal of the bicycle. The cyclist also has the option of wearing the reflectors on his or her ankles or shoes.
  • Noticeable on the side: A) yellow or white reflector attached to the front part of the bike and B) white or red reflector on both sides of the rear end of the bicycle. If the bike has tires that are reflectorized, these supplementary reflectors are not necessary – California Vehicle Code §21201(d)

Seating – Every bicycle should be equipped with a permanent and stable seat, except if the bicycle is made to be used without one. Passengers who are 40 pounds or less will need to use a seat that helps them remain on the seat and thereby shelters them from the bicycle’s moving parts – California Vehicle Code §21204

The Importance of Seeking Proficient Legal Advice

With the upsurge of bicycle enthusiasts throughout the State, many cities and counties are enacting various regulations that help to ensure the safety of riders and the overall general public. Because laws are subject to change, it is important that you understand your rights as a bicycle rider. Consider seeking the legal advice of a professional attorney who can help to adequately represent your rights.

Attorney Scot Moga is an avid cyclist, runner and triathlete that represents injured riders to get compensation for personal injuries after a collision due to the negligence of another. Scot has been in the exact same circumstances as you as an injured cyclist. He was the victim of an extremely serious and traumatic high speed bicycle v. automobile collision wherein he suffered severe personal injuries resulting in hundreds of thousands of medical bills, loss of earnings / time off work, property damages, and extreme pain and suffering. Attorney Moga understands bicycle laws how they relate to collisions and accidents in the State of California. He has over 25 years of representing injured cyclists (and a lifetime of riding) and consequently has the ability, knowledge and experience to properly assist victims against the attacks from large insurance companies and their lawyers

Attorney Moga is dedicated to representing other cyclists and children that have suffered severe personal injuries as a result of negligent drivers. If you or a loved one have been injured, contact attorney Scot Moga for a FREE CONSULTATION to protect all of you legal rights to adequate compensation for medical bills, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and future medical care.

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