Facts every bicyclist should know
California bike laws are included in the California Vehicle Code (CVC), which contains the state laws that determine how and where bicycles can legally ride.

In general, bicyclists have many of the same responsibilities and rights as those driving a motor vehicle.

Important Bicycle Laws in California

There are a number of important bicycle laws in California you should familiarize yourself with. These include:

  • Use a Bike Lane: If there is a bike lane and you are moving slower than traffic, you must use the bike lane.
  • Ride with Traffic: Bicycle riders in California must ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic. If you need to travel in the opposite direction on a one-way street, you will need to walk your bicycle on the sidewalk.
  • Ride on the Right Side of the Road: In the event you are riding as fast as traffic, you are allowed to ride in the traffic lane itself. However, most people are traveling slower than traffic which means you must ride as close as possible to the curb. Exceptions to the rule include preparing to make a left turn, when necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe to ride along the edge or right-hand curb, and when you are overtaking or passing another bicyclist.
  • Helmet Required for Under 18: Anyone riding a bike who is under 18 years of age must wear an approved helmet. It’s important to note that some areas like Chico, Bidwell Park, and El Cerrito require anyone riding a bicycle to have a helmet, no matter how old they are.
  • No Stopping in a Crosswalk: Bicycles cannot stop in a crosswalk, as they are for pedestrians, not bicycles or cars.
  • Yield to Pedestrians: Even if a pedestrian is not using a marked crosswalk when crossing the street or roadway, bicycles must exercise due care.
  • Have Working Brakes: Although it should be obvious, it’s important to have working brakes, and they needs to be ones that allow you to make a one-braked wheel skid on level, clean, dry road or pavement.
  • One Ear Uncovered: If you like to wear headphones or ear plugs while riding, the California bike law mandates you must have one ear uncovered at all times while riding.
  • Lights Required for Nighttime: If you are riding after dark, there needs to be a white light that is visible from at least 300 feet in front. The light can be equipped on the bicycle or on your person as well.
  • Nighttime Reflectors: There are several different requirements regarding different color reflectors required for riding at night. CVC 21201(d) covers specifics on which reflectors are required and how far away they must be visible from.
  • Parked Vehicles: Bicyclists need to keep a safe distance from parked vehicles to avoid being hit by someone opening the door.
  • Obey Traffic Signals and Signs: Bicyclists must obey all traffic signals and stop signs and follow fundamental right-of-way rules. You should not attempt to cross an intersection on a yellow signal if you cannot make it across before the light changes to red.

How Do You Properly Make a Left Turn on a Bicycle?

The DMV’s section on California bike law and safety rules explains how to make a proper left turn. It can safely be done in one of two ways. When you approach an intersection, a bicyclist needs to look over his or her left shoulder.

If it is clear, signal to make a turn and move to the left side of the lane or use the designated left turn lane or center turn late. The other option is to stop and cross like a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

Yield to pedestrians and wait for a green light or WALK sign if there is a signal at the crossing.

You should never make a left turn on a bicycle from the right side of the roadway, even if you are traveling in a designated bike lane.

Is it illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in California?

The ability to legally ride a bicycle on the sidewalk is determined by individual cities and counties that determine whether or not they allow a bike on the sidewalk in California.

Retaining a California Personal Injury Attorney

In the event you’ve been in an accident on a bicycle, it’s important to get in touch with a California bike accident attorney as soon as possible. The Beliz Law Firm has years of experience handling all types of personal injury losses. Contact us at 562-452-3772 to schedule a consultation.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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