Bicycles are treated similarly to vehicles as they, too, must follow the California Vehicle Code (CVC). As a general rule, bicyclists have the same responsibilities and duties as drivers of vehicles, which include:
- Follow the Vehicle Code: Stop at stop signs and red lights, and follow any other law/regulation that also applies to cars/vehicles.
- Go with the Flow of Traffic: Ride in the same direction as traffic, and if traveling on a one-way street in the opposite direction, walk the bicycle on sidewalk.
- Ride on the Right Side of the Road: In the event that you are riding at the speed of traffic, you may ride in the traffic lane. If moving slower, ride as close to the right-hand curb or edge of road as possible. There are several exceptions to this rule: overtaking and passing another cyclist, preparing to make a left-hand turn, and when “reasonably necessary to avoid conditions…” that would make the right-hand side unsafe to ride along (CVC 21202).
- Use the Bike Lanes: If the road has a bike lane, and you are moving slower than traffic, you must use this lane. Use the correct signal and exit when it is safe.
- Yield to Pedestrians: Pedestrians always have the right-of-way, even if they are not using crosswalks.
- Do Not Stop In the Crosswalk: Just like cars, stop at the stop walk and not in it.
- Ride With Safety Equipment At Night: Lights and reflectors are required at night. You or your bike must have a white light that is visible from a 300 feet distance. The bike must also have a flashing red light with a reflector, white or yellow reflectors on pedals, shoes, or ankles, and reflectors on the front, back, and sides of the bike.
- Wear a Helmet: If you are under the age of 18, you are required to wear a helmet, though everyone should wear a helmet. Bicyclists are at an increased risk of fatal head injuries, many of which are preventable.
- One Ear Must Remain Uncovered: Wearing headphones, earbuds, or ear plugs in both ears is not allowed.
- Bike Must Be of Regular Size: The bicyclist must be able to stop and support the bike with at least one foot on the ground, and be able to take off safely.
- Working Brakes: Bicyclists must have a working brake and be able to make one wheel stop on pavement.
Additional Regulations and Privileges for Bicycles
Additionally, there are regulations that specifically pertain to bicyclists, including:
- Bicycles are not allowed on freeways;
- Bicyclists cannot ride under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering drugs;
- Passengers on bicycles are not allowed unless there is an intended, affixed seat on the bike;
- Cities and counties decide whether bicyclists are allowed on sidewalks;
- Bicyclists are not allowed on toll bridges unless permitted to do so by the California Department of Transportation; and
- Bicyclists are allowed to use a cell phone (this does not mean you should).
Depending on the municipality, bicyclists are sometimes allowed on sidewalks. As previously mentioned, cyclists must always yield to pedestrians, and drivers of vehicles must yield to pedestrians and cyclists. In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown enacted the “Three Feet for Safety Act,” that says drivers must give cyclists at least three feet of space or slow down until they are safely able to pass. Failure to do so may result in fines, and in the case of an accident, civil and criminal liability.
What Other Areas of the Law Concerns Bicycles?
In addition to traffic citations and fines, bicyclists may be held civilly liable for any injuries they may have caused. This tort liability and even criminal charges may result if the bicyclist’s actions were especially reckless and caused extensive harm.
Should I Seek Legal Help?
If you have been charged with a traffic offense while bicycling, you may want to speak to a California criminal lawyer. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, help you build your case, and offer you advice on how to proceed.