Where Can I Ride My Bike In California?

Where Can I Ride My Bike In California?

Where you can ride is more complicated than you might imagine! California’s bike laws are found in California’s vehicle code.  Generally speaking bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers.  But, there are some important exceptions, which are outlined below. 

Where you can ride your bike depends on how fast or slow you’re going.  If you are moving as fast as traffic, you can ride wherever you want to on the road. 

2 bike riders by the ocean. Where Can I Ride My Bike In California

When Can I “Take the Lane”?

If you are moving slower than the traffic around you, and the vehicle lane is not wide enough for a bike and a car or truck to safely share side-by-side, then you can “take the lane”. 

Bicyclists must ride as far to the right side of the road as practicable unless:

  • Passing;
  • Preparing for a left turn;
  • Avoiding hazards;
  • If the lane is too narrow to share; or
  • If approaching somewhere a right turn is authorized. 

Unfortunately, most drivers, and some law enforcement officers do not understand the cyclists’ right to take the lane.  You can expect some blowback from irate drivers on narrow lane roads.  But, keep calm and pedal on. 

When Should I Use a Bike Lane?

If the road you are on has a bike lane, you should use it.  If you are traveling slower than traffic, then you must use the bike lane provided unless:

  • Passing;
  • Preparing for a left turn;
  • Avoiding a hazardous condition; or
  • Approaching somewhere a right turn is authorized. 

You are probably sensing a pattern. 

When Should I Use a Separate Bikeway?

If the “bike lane” is separated from moving traffic with posts, parked cars, concrete dividers, or anything else, then you are in a “separated bikeway”, not a “bike lane”.  You may ride outside of the separated bikeway for any reason.

Keep in mind the separated bikeway is there for a reason, and that reason is to protect you, so you might want to stay in the separated bikeway if you can. 

What Side of the Road Should I Ride On?

You must ride on the right side of the road, in the direction of traffic, except:

  • When you are passing someone;
  • When you are making a legal left turn (Don’t forget to signal);
  • When you are riding on a one-way street;
  • When you are riding on a road that is too narrow; or
  • When the right side of the road is closed because of construction. 

Can I Stop on a Bike Path?

No.  You cannot stop on, or park a bicycle on, a bicycle path.

Can I Ride My Bike on The Freeway?

Generally, you cannot ride your bicycle (even if it is motorized) on the freeway or expressway. 

Can I Cross A Toll Bridge on My Bicycle?

Probably not.  Bicyclists typically may not cross a toll bridge unless permitted to do so by the California Department of Transportation.  The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) does not typically allow this. 

Can I Ride My Bike on the Sidewalk?

Individual cities and counties control whether bicycles may be ridden on the sidewalk.  Here are some examples:

San FranciscoIllegal for anyone over 12  
Los AngelesLegal  
West HollywoodIllegal  
Santa MonicaIllegal  
San DiegoLegal except business districts in Oceanside, Encinitas, San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Santee, and unincorporated parts of San Diego County; Illegal always in Carlsbad, El Cajon, Vista, and Poway  
San JoseLegal except two areas with designated bikeways (San Fernando St. and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Streets, and in Willow Glen on Lincoln)  
SacramentoIllegal where City has posted a sign prohibiting sidewalk riding  
SalinasIllegal where City has posted a sign prohibiting sidewalk riding  
Santa CruzIllegal on sidewalks fronting and adjacent to commercial establishments, stores, or buildings used for business or commercial purposes  
San Luis ObispoIllegal  
Santa BarbaraIllegal

Where Can I Ride My Moped/Electric Bike?

Type 1 and Type 2 electric bicycles (top speeds of 20 mph) can ride wherever regular bikes can ride, unless a sign specifically prohibits them from riding where regular bikes can ride. 

Gas powered bicycles, and type 3 electric bikes (top speeds of 28 mph) may not be used on trials, bike paths, or lanes, unless allowed by local authorities.  However, they typically may be allowed in bike lanes, and separated bikeways.  They may not be operated by anyone under 16.  They may not be operated without a helmet. 

Where Can I Learn About California Bicycle Laws?

We have tons of stuff for California Bicyclists.  We are big on bikes here.  Clay and John are both avid bikers.  Clay focuses more on the roadways.  John focuses more on the trails.  We want to make sure you are informed, safe, and compliant.  We offer free consultations to bicyclists.  Just email us at bikes@griessmeyermccarthy.com give us your name, number, and tell us a little about what is going on. 

If you have a desire for more knowledge, consider visiting The California Bike Coalition at www.calbike.org, they have some of the best stuff around. 



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McCarthy Law Monterrey Locations

McCarthy Law

From our offices in Monterey, California and Fresno, California, we serve clients throughout the California Central Coast, including but not limited to: Fresno County, Kern County, Madera County, Merced County, Monterey County, San Benito County, San Joaquin County, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz County, Stanislaus County, and Tuolumne County.