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What Are California’s Bicycle Laws?

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Chuck Geerhart
bicycle laws in california

Generally, bicyclists must generally follow the same road rules and regulations as people who drive automobiles or other vehicles.

Thus, it makes sense that California bicycle laws are found in the California Vehicle Code (CVC), just like the vehicle laws.

California bike laws specify how and where bicyclists are to operate their bikes. They also layout protections for cyclists that are victims of bicycle accidents.

Below is a summary of some of the key sections of the bike laws in California that you should know if you plan to ride a bike in California.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with an experienced member of our team about a possible personal injury claim, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today.

Where Can Bicyclists Ride?

Bicyclists who are riding at the same speed as traffic may ride wherever they want. This also includes riding in the motorist lane of travel, which is called “taking the lane.”

All bicyclists must ride on the ride side of the road going in the same direction as traffic, except in the following situations:

  • Passing,
  • Making a legal left turn,
  • Riding on a too-narrow road, or
  • If there is road construction on the right side.

Below are more rules pertaining to where bicyclists must ride.

California Bicycle Lanes

If there is an established bicycle lane, bicycle laws in California say that anyone operating slower than the speed of traffic must use the lane, except in these situations:

  • They are passing another vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian within the lane;
  • They are making a left turn;
  • They are trying to avoid something like an object or hazard in the lane; or 
  • If right turns are permissible.

The cyclist must use reasonable care and the appropriate hand signals when leaving the lane. 

California Bicycle Laws for Sidewalks 

So long as local laws don’t conflict with the CVC, local authorities can enact ordinances to regulate cyclists riding on sidewalks and freeways.

California Bike Laws for Equipment

California cyclists must follow bike laws in California regarding how they equip their bicycles, such as:

  • Brakes that allow a one-braked skid on dry, level pavement;
  • Handlebars that do not elevate the rider’s hands above their shoulders; and
  • A permanent, regular seat.

Bikes must not be so tall that the bicyclist cannot support them upright while stopped with one foot on the ground or start them safely.

Also, if the rider is operating their bike at night, they need a white headlamp, a rear red reflector or flashing light, and a white or yellow reflector on the pedals or cyclist’s shoes. 

Other Miscellaneous California Bicycle Laws

Below are some of the more important laws about how cyclists must operate:

  • Alcohol and drugs—cyclists cannot operate under the influence, and they can get DUIs just as other drivers can;
  • Earplugs or headsets—bicycle operators may not wear a headset or earplugs in both ears, except for hearing aids;
  • California bicycle helmet laws—people under 18 must wear helmets that meet certain safety standards;
  • Cyclists cannot block sidewalks or pedestrian paths with parked bicycles;
  • Bicycle riders must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at marked crosswalks or unmarked crosswalks at intersections; and
  • Cyclists may not cross a toll bridge.

This is not a complete list of all the laws that cyclists must be aware of, but they are the ones that people commonly need to know. 

Laws That Protect Cyclists

Cyclists face a much higher risk of injury than other drivers. The CVC contains laws that specifically protect cyclists.

Safe Passing Law

Motorists must give cyclists at least three feet while passing, whether in a bike lane or not. If they are not able to give three feet, the driver must slow down while passing. 


Car doors can seriously injure cyclists and pedestrians. Motorists are required to be careful when opening their car doors.

They must not open their doors in the way of moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe and will not interfere with traffic. They also must not leave their doors open longer than necessary.

Blocking Bike Paths

Drivers cannot block bike paths with their vehicles if it impedes cyclists’ reasonable movement unless it is necessary for safe operation or otherwise legal. 

If You Were Injured in a Bike Accident, Contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart

The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart represents bicycle accident injury victims in the San Francisco area and can help protect your rights and get just compensation for your injuries.

Cyclists can sustain injuries for a number of reasons, including negligent motorists, bicycle manufacturing defects, or road hazards.

Our attorneys will listen to your story and determine if you have a viable lawsuit and the value of your claim. We will do our best to negotiate a fair settlement or take your case to trial if necessary.

We have helped countless clients, and you can read some of their testimonials for yourself on our website. It is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible after you are injured.

Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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