Bicycle Laws & Rules of the Road in California
Bicycle road rules and regulations can be confusing, especially when bicycling laws vary from state to state and even city to city. Whether an avid bike rider or a beginner, it’s essential to know the laws, rules, and recommendations for cycling in California to ensure you stay safe on your next bike ride.
Below is some essential information to help you focus on the road so you can enjoy the rewarding experience of bike riding on some of California’s best routes.
What Side of the Road Should Cyclists Ride On?
Bicyclists must ride on the right side of the road with traffic flow and stay as far to the right as possible to increase the distance between other vehicles. Cyclists are also allowed to ride on the shoulder on the right side of the road if there are no designated bicycle lanes.
Can Bicyclists Ride on Freeways and Highways?
Cycling is typically not allowed on freeways and major highways. However, cycling is permitted on scenic roads, like Highway 1, Highway 227, Highway 46, and parts of Highway 101. There will be signage that indicates cycling is allowed.
Do Cyclists Have to Use the Bike Lane?
California bike lane rules and laws specify that cyclists must use bike lanes if available. However, a few exceptions to when cyclists can ride outside the bike lane include the following:
- When a cyclist passes or overtakes a pedestrian, vehicle, or another bicycle within the lane
- When a cyclist can’t safely maneuver without going outside the lane
- When a cyclist prepares for a left turn at an intersection
- When a cyclist approaches an area where a right turn is allowed
California bike lane rules also state that cyclists should not stop or park a bicycle on the bike path.
Do Bicyclists Have to Pull Over for Cars?
Bicyclists often have to ride in a traffic lane when there isn’t a safer option, which means motor vehicles may start lining up behind them. While it is polite to turn off the road to allow moving cars to pass, bicyclists are not required to unless five or more vehicles are behind them.
Can Cyclists Ride Inside Crosswalks at Intersections?
According to state regulations, crosswalks are for pedestrians, not bicyclists. Cyclists should stop at crosswalks and yield to pedestrians. Bicyclists should either walk their bikes through the crosswalk or ride with traffic flow on the farthest right side of the street but to the left of the crosswalk if going straight.
Can Bicyclists Ride on the Sidewalk?
It depends on where you live in California. Currently, there are no state-wide laws restricting bicycle use on sidewalks. California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21206 states that city and county officials are responsible for enforcing bicycle laws in pedestrian areas.
In Sacramento County, cyclists can ride on sidewalks without restrictions in Folsom, Davis, and Galt. However, cities like Elk Grove, Sacramento, West Sacramento, and the unincorporated regions of Sacramento County only permit bike riding on sidewalks in designated areas.
What are the Rules for Riding in Groups?
According to California traffic laws, there are no regulations on how cyclists should ride in groups. However, it is a good idea to do the following:
- Ride in two lines if the road allows
- Leave a few feet between each bicyclist
- Communicate roadway hazards
- Assess the streets to identify what formations and pace to ride
Can Cyclists Get a DUI While Riding Drunk?
Riding while drunk is a misdemeanor criminal offense. Drinking and using illegal drugs while bicycling could impair your judgment, causing you to forget to obey traffic signs or swerve through the streets. Bicyclists can get a CUI (cycling under the influence) charge and be fined up to $250. However, unlike a DUI (driving under the influence), a CUI charge does not impose other legal penalties such as jail time or license suspension.
Bicycle & Rider Regulations
California has several rules and regulations about what you should wear while cycling and what your bicycle needs.
- Helmet: Minors must wear a helmet while bicycling. Those 18 or older are not required to wear a helmet. However, helmets are highly encouraged for safety, especially in areas with few bike lanes.
- Earphones: Headphones are not allowed while bicycling. However, you can use one earphone to listen to music while riding. One ear should be open to help you be aware of your surroundings.
- Lights: A light must be attached to you when riding at night or in times of low visibility if your bike doesn’t have one.
- Size: The size of your bike should allow you to stop and support it with at least one foot on the ground in an upright position.
- Handlebars: The handlebars must be at shoulder level or lower.
- Brakes: A brake should be on one of the wheels, and the brake should allow the tires to skid in dry and clear conditions.
- Seat: The seat should be stable or permanently fixed.
- Lights: A visible white light should be either on the front of your bike or attached to yourself at night or in low visibility areas.
- Reflectors: A flashing or solid red light with a reflector should be fixed to the back of the bike, a yellow or white reflector should be attached to each pedal and on each side of the front of the bike, and a red or white reflector should be attached to each side of the back of the bike.
Watch YouTube Video: Cycling in California: 2020 Helmet and Safety Laws. The video below discusses helmet and safety laws for cycling in California.