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Top Ten California Bicycle Laws Every Cyclist Should Know

While there are many laws on cycling, we believe the ones listed below are the most important California bicycle laws. These and other cycling laws can be found in the California Vehicle Code, which we abbreviate as “CVC.” We provide links to the each section of the code cited below.

  1. Bicyclists Must Follow The Vehicle Code

As a general rule, adult bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as vehicle drivers. Thus stop at stop signs and red lights just like all other vehicles (CVC 21200).

  1. Ride With Traffic

Ride in the same direction as traffic. If traveling in the opposite direction of a one way street, walk your bicycle on the sidewalk (CVC 21650).

  1. Ride On The Right Side Of The Road

If you are riding as fast as traffic, you can ride in the traffic lane. In most cases, you will be moving slower than traffic. Then you must ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway.

Several important exceptions to the rule are included in the Vehicle Code which allow you to “take the lane.”  These exceptions are: (1) overtaking and passing another bicyclist, (2) preparing to take a left turn, and (3) when “reasonably necessary to avoid conditions . . .  that make it unsafe to continue to ride along the right-hand curb or edge,” such as pedestrians walking in the roadway (CVC 21202).

  1. Use Bike LanesTop California Bicycle Laws From San Francisco Bay Area Bike Accident and Crash Attorneys at the Dolan Law Firm

If you are riding on a roadway with a bike lane and moving slower than traffic, you must use the bike lane. You may exit the bike lane after you determine it reasonably safe to do so and give the appropriate a signal. Specific examples of when you can leave a bike lane listed in the Vehicle Code include; making a left turn, passing another bicyclist, avoiding a pedestrian or car in the bike lane, and approaching a place where a right turn is authorized (CVC 21208).

  1. Yield To Pedestrians

Pedestrians should always use marked crosswalks when crossing a roadway. But even if they do not, bicyclists must exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian on a roadway (CVC 21954).

  1. Stop At, Not In, The Crosswalk

Crosswalks are for pedestrians, not cars or bicycles (CVC 21455).

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  1. Ride With Lights And Reflectors At Night

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:

(1) 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

(2) 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

(3) 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 (CVC 21201(d)).

  1. Under 18, Wear A Helmet

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: always wear a helmet (CVC 21212).

  1. One Ear Not Covered

Bicyclists are not allowed to wear earplugs in both ears or a headset covering both ears (CVC 27400).

  1. No Tall Bikes On Roadways

The bike must be of size that the bicyclist can stop, support it in an upright position with at least one foot on the ground, and start in a safe manner (CVC 21201(c)).

  1. Have Brakes That Work

Ok – we added one more law as a “bonus.” It should go without saying, but make your brakes work. Bicycles must be equipped with a brake that allows you to make a one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement CVC 21201(a).

Finally, one key law for vehicle drivers – the California Three Feet for Safety Act (CVC 21670) requires that:

a) A driver to provide a three feet buffer between his/her vehicle and the bicycle when passing; and,

b) 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.

Looking for more information?  California bicycle and pedestrian safety guide by the Dolan Law Firm

If  you are in bike crash, please follow the bike accident checklist we have have prepared. We also have published a Bike & Pedestrian Guide which free to download along with our other guides on injury, employment and elder abuse law at

Why You Need An Attorney If You Are Injured In Bicycle Accident

Car insurance companies make money by keeping claims payouts low, or refusing to make any payout.  Do not be surprised if the insurance company tries to place the fault for the accident on you and minimize the damages your suffered.

In particular, if you suffered broken ribs, collar bone, or other fracture, a concussion or other head injury, or any other serious injury, you should consult with an experienced injury attorney familiar with California bicycle laws. You’ll never know your rights and remedies under California bicycle laws or the full compensation the law permits for the damages you suffered unless your speak to an experienced bicycle accident attorney.


Contact A Bicycle Accident Attorney At Dolan Law Firm Today

The Dolan Law Firm is a long-time sponsor of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Bike East Bay, and Marin County Bicycle Coalition. We are proud to be recognized by these groups as local, bicycle-friendly attorneys. Our firm also sponsors the California Bicycle Coalition which advocates in Sacramento for the rights of cyclists.

We represent bicyclists from San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego and all cities across Northern, Central and Southern California who suffered fractures, concussions, and other serious injuries. We are proud to have been repeatedly recognized as one of the best injury law firms in California and outstanding bicycle accident lawyers.

We are known for taking challenging, complicated cases to trial and winning. As a result, we regularly obtain recoveries far above what other lawyers obtain.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a bike accident, of simply have questions about California bicycle laws, we urge you to contact our attorneys today online or call us at 415-636-8160.  We will review your case for free, promptly and with no obligation on your part.

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