What Are California’s Bicycle Laws?

California Bicycle Laws: What to Know

California bicycle laws | California Vehicle Code

Bike riding is a great way to get around Riverside, from downtown to the bustling campus of UC Riverside. According to many health studies, bicycling improves heart health, immunity, and brain power, as well as reduces stress. With the introduction of electric bicycles (e-bikes), bicycling has never been more popular or convenient. 

But the largest city in the Inland Empire has its fair share of serious bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles. Aggressive drivers, speeding, and impaired drivers are frequently entangled in bike accidents leading to serious harm or death to bicyclists. If you or a loved one was involved in a bicycle accident, contact a Riverside bicycle accident attorney at Sycamore Accident Lawyers for a free case evaluation. 


The Different Types of Bikes

Before getting into California bicycle laws, it is important to understand the different types of bikes and how they are classified.

  • Road bikes: These bikes are designed for riding on paved roads, such as racing, touring, or commuting bikes.
  • Mountain bikes: True to their name, these bikes are most commonly ridden on off-road trails, such as dirt, gravel, or rocks. They usually have wide tires, flat or riser handlebars, and suspension systems.
  • Adventure bikes: Gravel and adventure bikes can be used on various surfaces, such as pavement, gravel, or dirt. They usually have wider tires than road bikes, but narrower than mountain bikes. 
  • E-bikes: Electric bicycles are equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance to the rider. They are classified in three types: Class 1 (up to 20mph), Class 2 (up to 20mph with a throttle), and Class 3 (up to 28mph). 
  • BMX bikes: These are bikes that are designed for performing tricks, stunts, or racing on dirt tracks, ramps, or skate parks. 

Motorized bicycles, gas-powered bicycles, and motorized scooters are not considered bicycles. Previously, local authorities could ban low speed and high speed electric bicycles from using bike paths, bike lanes, trails, and bikeways. However, a recent amendment prevents cities from restricting e-bike access. 


What Bicyclists Need to Know

As a bike rider, you have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers under California Vehicle Code VEH 21200. Below is a summary of California bicycle laws: 

Where You Can Ride

Cyclists must obey the rules of the road. 

  • If you are moving as fast as traffic, you can ride anywhere 
  • Ride with traffic, never against it
  • Ride bikes as far to the right side of the street as you can. The exception is when making a left turn, when passing, or avoiding a road hazard
  • Use a protected bike lane when available when traveling slower than traffic 
  • Remain visible and wear bright clothing

How to Equip Your Bike

A bike must fit the rider’s size and be equipped with all of the necessary gear, including: 

  • One brake that allows a rider to make a one-braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement
  • Handlebars at the bicyclists’ shoulder height 
  • A bicycle size that fits the rider
  • A white or red reflector on the rear of the bike, a front white or yellow reflector, and yellow or white reflectors on the pedals or the bicyclist’s shoes
  • A permanent seat 

How to Operate Your Bike

A bicyclist must take certain precautions while operating their bike, such as: 

  • Bike riders and bicycle passengers under the age of 18 must wear a fastened bicycle helmet
  • Bicyclists may not wear earplugs in both ears while riding
  • Cyclists are permitted to use a handheld cell phone while riding
  • Cyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within marked and unmarked crosswalks at intersections
  • Cyclists cannot cross toll bridges, freeways, or expressways as per the California Department of Transportation and local authorities

Riding Under the Influence

California Vehicle Code (VEH 21200.5) states that no bicyclist may ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 


What Drivers Need to Know

As a driver, you have a duty to share the road with bicyclists and respect their rights. You also have to follow certain rules and precautions to avoid causing or contributing to a bicycle accident. Here are some of the things you need to know as a driver:

Give at least three feet of space when passing 

Under California’s Three Feet for Safety Act (VEH 21760) drivers must maintain a safe distance of at least three feet when overtaking or passing a bicyclist in the same direction. If it is not possible to give three feet of space due to traffic or roadway conditions, you must slow down and pass only when it is safe to do so. 

Do not open your door into the path of a bicyclist

Known as dooring, when a driver or passengers opens the door of a vehicle on the side of moving traffic, they may unintentionally hit a cyclist. California law prohibits drivers and passengers from opening the door of a vehicle on the side of moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so. 

Do not drive or park in a bike lane

It is illegal to drive or park in a bicycle lane except when entering or leaving the roadway, preparing for a turn, or avoiding an obstacle. You must yield to any bicyclist in the bike lane before entering or leaving it. 

Look for bicyclists before turning or changing lanes

Drivers must signal their intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet before doing so. You must also look for bicycle riders in your blind spots, mirrors, and windows before turning or changing lanes. 


Contact a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Today

Bike lane accident

Even if you follow California bicycle laws, you can still suffer injuries in bicycle accident with a negligent driver. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a bike crash, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress. However, pursuing a bicycle accident claim can be a challenging process, especially if you are dealing with the other party’s insurance company.

By contacting our Riverside bicycle accident lawyer, you can protect your legal rights and obtain fair compensation. At Sycamore Accident Lawyers, we have the knowledge and expertise to handle all types of bicycle accident cases, from minor injuries to wrongful death

Our Riverside law firm offers a free consultation and a no-win, no-fee guarantee, which means you pay nothing unless we win your case. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your bicycle accident claim.