There is a surprising amount of confusion about the laws surrounding bicyclists, even questions as basic as “where can cyclists ride”? The State of California has passed laws regulating most aspects of cycling and these laws are applied statewide. This means that, in large part, the rules affecting cyclists in Los Angeles are the same as in San Diego.

There is some variation in the law with regard to bike registration requirements and restrictions on riding on the sidewalk between cities. You should be sure to look up these laws in any city in which you plan to bike.

Below are some basic, statewide laws that will help clear up any confusion and keep cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers safe.

What Laws Are California Cyclists Required to Follow?

  • Follow Traffic Laws – Cyclists are bound by the same traffic rules as drivers. California law specifically states: a person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle… including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages
    or drugs. You must follow the vehicle code.
  • Yield to Pedestrians – In keeping with the first requirement listed, cyclists, like cars, must yield to pedestrians.
  • Use Lights and Reflectors – Cyclists are required by law to use lights and reflectors when biking at night.
  • Ride with Traffic – Cyclists should ride in the same direction as vehicle traffic. This is safer, as it better enables the drivers to predict the cyclist’s actions.
  • Ride on the Right Side of the Road – There are exceptions to this, however, this which you can learn about here.
  • Use Predetermined Bike Lanes – All bicyclists should use the pre-outlined bike lanes when available.
  • If you’re Under 18, Wear A Helmet – According to CVC 21212 “A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet” – (Vehicle Code)

What are California Cyclists NOT Required to Do?

Generally, it is required that cyclists stay to the right side of the road and use bike lanes whenever possible, but there is no requirement that cyclists do this at all times. Cyclists may ride in different areas of the road:

  • when they are keeping pace with traffic;
  • when overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
  • when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
  • when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions such as other parked vehicles, pedestrians or other objects;
  • when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized, in order to allow cars to turn using a right turn lane; and
  • when driving on a one-way street with more than one lane (in this case, a cyclist may ride on the left-hand side of the road instead of the right).

These exceptions are the same for both the requirement that cyclists drive on the right side of the road and the requirement they use marked bike lanes where possible.

Laws Regarding Bicycle Accidents in California

Sometimes, even when all cycling laws are followed, accidents still occur. Bike accidents can vary dramatically in scope and severity. Cyclists are most at risk of being in an accident with a motor vehicle at intersections or when cars are entering the road from the right.

In California, drivers of motor vehicles owe the same duty of care to cyclists as they do to other drivers. This means that if the driver’s negligence caused the accident, you are entitled to recover for your injuries and other losses related to the accident. Even where the cyclist was partially at fault, he or she may still be entitled to recovery. A California personal injury attorney can evaluate your case and help represent you in any claim against the driver to ensure you receive all of the compensation you are entitled.