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California Bike Laws You Need to Know

Before you get on your bicycle, make sure you know the laws surrounding its proper use. Staying safe on the roadway is challenging enough, but you put yourself at a disadvantage if you aren’t quite sure of the laws surrounding the operation of these recreational vehicles. Bicycles are considered just that – vehicles, for all intents and purposes, specifically when it comes to most traffic laws.

General California Bicycle Laws

Bicyclists in California must follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Here are some key laws every cyclist should be aware of:

  • Helmet requirements. Bicyclists under 18 years of age must wear a helmet. Adults bike riders are encouraged to wear helmets for safety, though it is not required by law.
  • Right to the road. Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. They must ride in the same direction as traffic and obey all traffic signals and signs.
  • Bike lane usage. Where bike lanes are provided, cyclists are required to use them when traveling slower than the flow of traffic. However, cyclists may leave the bike lane to pass, make a left turn, avoid hazards, or approach a place where a right turn is authorized.
  • Lights and reflectors. Bicycles ridden in the evenings and at night must have a white light on the front, a red reflector on the rear, white or yellow reflectors on the pedals or the cyclist’s shoes or ankles, and reflectors on the wheels.
  • Riding on sidewalks. The legality of riding on sidewalks varies by city within California. Cyclists should check local ordinances to determine if sidewalk riding is permitted in their area.
  • Brakes. Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake that allows the rider to make a one-wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

Los Angeles Bicycle Laws

In addition to state laws, Los Angeles has specific regulations that cyclists must follow. These local laws aim to improve safety for both cyclists and pedestrians:

  • Sidewalk riding. In Los Angeles, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is generally prohibited in business districts and other specified areas. Cyclists must be aware of posted signs indicating where sidewalk riding is not allowed.
  • Bicycle parking. Bicycles must be parked in designated areas and not block pedestrian pathways. Los Angeles has installed numerous bike racks and corrals throughout the city to facilitate safe and legal bike parking.
  • Helmet requirements. Similar to state law, all cyclists under 18 must wear helmets. Los Angeles promotes helmet use among all cyclists, regardless of age.
  • Use of bike lanes. Cyclists must use bike lanes where available. The city of Los Angeles has an extensive network of bike lanes, and adherence to these lanes helps ensure safety for all road users.

Key Differences Between California and Los Angeles Laws

While California’s state laws provide a framework for bicycle safety, Los Angeles has additional regulations that cyclists must adhere to:

  • Sidewalk riding restrictions. Unlike some other areas in California, Los Angeles imposes stricter regulations on riding on sidewalks, particularly in business districts.
  • Parking regulations. Los Angeles has specific rules about where bicycles can be parked, aiming to prevent obstructions on sidewalks and pedestrian paths.

Staying Safe While Cycling

To stay safe while cycling in California, it is essential to follow these tips:

  • Always wear a helmet. While not required for adults, wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries in the event of an accident.
  • Use lights and reflectors. Ensure your bike is equipped with the necessary lights and reflectors, especially if you ride at night.
  • Be visible and predictable. Wear bright clothing and use hand signals to indicate your movements to other road users.
  • Obey traffic laws. Follow all traffic signals and signs, and ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Stay alert. Keep an eye out for road hazards, such as potholes and debris, and be cautious of cars and pedestrians.

Should You Call an Attorney?

If you are involved in a bicycle accident, consulting with an experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal complexities and ensure you receive fair compensation. An attorney can assist with:

  • Understanding your rights. An attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist under California and Los Angeles laws.
  • Filing a claim. If the accident was caused by another party’s negligence, an attorney can help you file a personal injury claim to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies. Insurance companies often try to minimize payouts. An attorney can negotiate on your behalf to ensure you receive fair compensation.