10 Bicycle Laws Every Bike Rider Must Know

10 Bicycle Laws ‘Rules of the Road’ Every Bike Rider Must Know

Young woman biking at beach. 10 Bicycle Laws Every Bike Rider Must Know

These are the 10 bicycle laws every California bicyclist must know:

  • Bicyclists must follow the vehicle code.  They are a lot like cars that way.  For example, bicyclists must stop at red lights, stop at stop signs, etc.  You can find out more here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21200).
  • Bicyclists must ride with traffic.  Folks on bikes must ride in the same direction as traffic.  There are a few small exceptions.  But, those are pretty typically marked out well.  You can find out more here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21650).
  • Bike riders must ride their bike on the right side of the road.  If you are riding as fast as traffic, you can ride in any lane.  But, usually, you will be going slower than traffic.  So, you will need to ride as close as practicable to the right had side curb or edge of the road.  There are three main exceptions 1) passing anther bicyclist; 2) preparing to turn left; and 3) when “reasonably necessary to avoid conditions…that make it unsafe to continue to ride along the right-hand curb or edge”.  You can find more here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21202).
  • Bicyclists must use bike lanes when they are available if they are moving slower than traffic.  It is actually pretty similar to the “riding on the right side” rule above.  You can find out more here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21208).
  • Bicyclists should yield to pedestrians.  Pedestrians should cross in crosswalks.  But, even if they do not, bicyclists must yield to pedestrians.  You can learn more here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21954).

Along those lines….

  • Bicyclists must stop at, not in, crosswalks.  Crosswalks are for pedestrians.  They are not for bicycles.  They are not for cars.  You can learn more here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21455).
  • Bikes must be properly equipped and of an appropriate size.  No riding those comical old-timey bikes that are huge.  Bikes must be of a size that the ride can stop, and support, in an upright position, with at least one foot on the ground, and start in a safe manner.  You can learn more about appropriate sized bikes here: (Cal Vehicle Code §21201(c)).  Lights and reflectors are great.  When riding at night, you, or your bike, must be equipped with a white light that is visible from 30 feet in front of the bike.  The bike must have a red reflector or flashing red light on the back of the bike that is visible from 500 feet.  The bike must also have a white or yellow reflector visible from the front and rear, from at least 200 feet.  Finally, the bike must have a white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle, and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bike.  You can learn more about reflectors here: (Cal Vehicle Code  §21201(d)).  Bikes must also have breaks that allow you to make a one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.  For more about bike brakes you can check out: Cal Vehicle Code §21201(a).
  • If you are under 18, you must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.  If you are 18 or over, you should definitely wear a helmet.  You can find out more about bike helmets here: (Cal Vehicle Code  §21212).
  • Bike riders must have one ear open.  They must not cover both ears with headphones, or plug both ears with earplugs.  To learn more about how bicyclists can and cannot cover their ears, check out: (Cal Vehicle Code §27400)
  • Drivers must provide at least a three foot buffer between his/her vehicle and your bicycle when passing, and when unable to provide the minimum three feet passing distance must slow to a reasonable and prudent speed when passing, and only pass when doing so would not endanger you.  For more on the California Three Feet for Safety Act, check out: (Cal Vehicle Code §21670).

Where can I learn about bicycle laws in California?

Consider sharing your story with us so we can answer your questions and concerns. If you are looking for more information on California bicycle laws and other related topics, check out our free resources under the ‘resources’ menu. We cover topics like:

We also have things like local bike maps, and links to local organizations as passionate about riding bikes as we are. 

If you have any questions about bicycle laws affecting bike riders, please fill out our free, confidential case evaluation form.  We offer $500 discounts to people who have donated to either the California Bike Coalition, Bike SLO County, Bicycling Monterey, or Bike Santa Cruz County, in the past year.  The discount easily covers our fees on quick questions and strategy sessions for bicyclists. 

Also, check your local bike shop for our quick reference cards on what to do if you get into a bike accident.  If you were in a bike accident, please check out: What do I do if I get into a bicycle accident?  Then, feel free to fill out our completely free, completely confidential case evaluation form.  If we think we’re in a position to help you, we’ll offer you a free consultation.  If we don’t think we’re in a position to help you, we’ll still provide you a bunch of free resources we hope will help you understand the law, find an attorney, and even do it yourself.  We take all our bike accident cases on a contingency fee, which means we don’t collect unless you collect.  We’re nationally recognized bike accident lawyers, right here on the Central Coast.  We take cases throughout the United States.  But, we love taking on cases in our own backyard.      



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