California Bicycle Laws

Unfortunately, bicycle accidents frequently result in severe injuries to the cyclist. While many of these accidents are the fault of the motorist, there are cases when the bicycle rider is at fault. By being familiar with California bicycle laws, cyclists and motorists alike can reduce their risk of being involved in an accident.

Cyclists have the same rights as drivers of cars and other motor vehicles. With these rights, however, come similar responsibilities.

Riding Bikes on Sidewalks

If a cyclist is traveling the same speed as motor vehicle traffic, there are no restrictions as to where on the road he must ride. For cyclists traveling slower than traffic, though, California law states they must ride:

  • On the right side of the road;
  • In a bike lane, when possible; and
  • As close to the right side of the road as safety allows.

In cities, bicyclists are not allowed to ride on sidewalks according to local ordinances. They must also yield to pedestrians at intersections.

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Bicycle Helmets & Required Equipment

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to ride a bicycle in California without the proper helmet. This also applies to children in seats or bike trailers.

All bicycles must be of the appropriate size for the rider, have operational brakes, and have handlebars that are lower than the rider’s shoulders. All bikes must also have properly placed reflectors for riding at dusk and nighttime. Night riding also requires a white headlight.

Other California Bicycle Laws Riders Should Know

Below are a few things that are illegal under California law:

  • Riding with headphones or earplugs in both ears;
  • Riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Hitching rides on cars or other motor vehicles; and
  • Carrying items that prevent proper operation of the bicycle.

How Drivers Cause Accidents by Ignoring Bicycle Laws & Rights

While operating a motor vehicle, a driver must exercise reasonable care to ensure the safety of other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. But not all drivers exercise reasonable care.

Many bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles are the result of a driver failing to recognize a bicyclist’s right to the road or otherwise violating a traffic law. For example, below are three common types of bike accidents:

  • Making a right turn in front of a bicyclist who is traveling straight through an intersection. Drivers may fail to recognize the cyclist has a right to use the road in the same manner as motor vehicles or may not want to wait for the bicyclist to pass.
  • Turning left in front of an oncoming bicyclist. Drivers may assume the bicyclist must stop to allow the motor vehicle to pass, or may simply not want to wait for the bicyclist to cross the intersection.
  • Opening a car door in a bicyclist’s path. Drivers may fail to recognize that they are opening their door into a bicycle lane or may not account for bicyclists using the roadway.

If you can prove the driver neglected his duty of exercise reasonable care and violated traffic laws, you may be able to receive damages.

Contacting An Attorney

If a negligent driver was to blame for an accident that caused you serious injury, you can file a personal injury claim. Remember that you only have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim.

Attorney Ryan Sargent is a cyclist himself. He sees the dangers that bicyclists face from inconsiderate or negligent drivers who fail to recognize bicyclists’ rights. He can advise you on your legal rights after your accident.

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