Whether you're riding to work, school, or for fun, you should know the rules of the road for cyclists. Here are the Top 10 California Bicycle Laws every road user should know.
- California Vehicle Code: CVC 21200 "Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle." Bicycle riders must obey the same rules as vehicle drivers; this includes stopping at red lights and stop signs.
- Ride with traffic: CVC 21650 Ride in the same direction as traffic. If traveling in the opposite direction of a one way street, walk your bicycle on the sidewalk. When riding slower than the normal speed of traffic, you are required to ride as far right as “practicable” (meaning safe). You are not required to ride as far right as possible, which may not be safe.
- Bicycles Allowed Use of Full Lane: CVC 21202 If a travel lane is too narrow to safely share side by side with a motor vehicle, you can prevent unsafe passing by taking the lane (riding near the center of the lane). On two-lane roads where it’s illegal or unsafe to pass, you must turn off the roadway at a designated or safe location to allow a line of 5 or more vehicles behind you to pass. A shared-lane marking or sharrow (see photo) is a street marking placed in the travel lane to indicate where bicyclists should ride. It also serves to alert motorists that bicyclists may be using the full travel lane. Additionally, "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs remind all of us that people have the right to use the full travel lane, using a bicycle or a vehicle.
- Avoid the Door Zone: CVC 22517 No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonable safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic.
- Avoid riding on sidewalks – Each city in California has its own rules about riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. Some cities allow sidewalk riding, some don't. Sidewalk riding is a violation of the municipal code in Santa Barbara.
- You can file a Police Report: call 911. You have the right to file a police report if you've been involved in a collision resulting in injury or property damage. Take notes & photos. Get the police report number from police officers on the scene. You also have the right to file a police report for cases of motorist assault.
Ride with Lights and Reflectors at night: CVC 21201 (d) When riding at night, you or your bike must be equipped with a white light that is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front of the bike. The bike must also have:
- a red reflector or a solid or flashing red light with a built-in reflector on the rear that is visible from a distance of 500 feet.
- a white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet; and
- 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 bicycle, unless your bike has front and rear reflectorized tires.
- Under 18, Wear A Helmet: CVC 21212 If you are under age 18, you must wear an approved helmet when riding. If you are 18 and older, a helmet is not required. Do not risk a life-threatening head injury in a bike crash: SBBIKE recommends wearing a helmet.
- One Ear Not Covered: CVC 27400 Bicyclists are not allowed to wear earplugs in both ears or a headset covering both ears.
- One key law for motorists, the California Three Feet for Safety Act: CVC 21670 requires that:
- A driver to provide a three feet buffer between his/her vehicle and the bicycle when passing; and,
- A driver who is unable to provide the minimum three-foot passing distance due to traffic or roadway conditions to (1) slow to a reasonable and prudent speed when passing and (2) only pass when doing so would not endanger the safety of the bicyclist.