California Cycling Laws
Guide to Laws for Bicycle Riders in California
In general, the laws applicable to car drivers (Vehicle Code) are also applicable to those riding a bike, except when the rules are irrelevant to bikes.1Vehicle Code 21200 Many of those rules, as well as rules specific to bicycles (which also generally apply to electric bicycles and pedicabs) are described here. Such rules generally only apply to public streets, not necessarily private property.2The code usually makes reference to the “highway” which is defined as essentially any public street, Vehicle Code Section 360 Here are some important rules specific to bike riding in California.
Do cyclists need to yield to pedestrians?
Do cyclists need to stop at stop signs and red lights?
Are there any streets cyclists aren’t allowed on?
Yes, cyclists can’t use streets where the speed limit is greater than 35 mph.
Are drivers required to give me a certain distance when passing?
Is drunk cycling illegal?
What are the rules about equipment?
- Bicycles must be equipped with at least a brake which allows operators to execute a wheelskid on dry, level, clean pavement.
- Handlebars must not be higher than the rider’s shoulders.
- Bicycles must be small enough for the rider to stop, support it with one foot on the ground, and restart safely.
- At night bicycles must be equipped with a white headlight or white light attached to the rider and visible from the front.
- Bicycles must also have a rear red reflector and white or yellow pedal reflectors. There must be a white or yellow reflector on the front of the bicycle visible from the side, and a red or white reflector on the rear of the bicycle visible from the side.
- All riders must have a permanent, regular seat. Bicycle passengers under 40 lbs. must have a seat which retains them in place and protects them from moving parts.
Am I allowed to wear earplugs or headphones while cycling?
Am I allowed to bike on the sidewalk?
Some cities allow bicycles on the sidewalk, others prohibit it. See here for Los Angeles area.
Do I have to wear a helmet or make my child wear one?
Do I always have to travel on the right side of the road in the direction of traffic?
Can I ride my bike in a vehicle lane?
Can I ride my bike while being towed by a car?
Am I allowed to give a friend a ride on my bike if I have just one seat?
Can I ride a bike on the freeway?
On most of the freeways in California, you cannot ride a bicycle. But in some (mostly rural) areas, if it’s not specifically prohibited by signs, you may actually ride a bike on the “freeway.”14CVC 21960 See more here.