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California Bicycle Laws

bike in traffic

California Vehicle Code §21200 (a) states as follows:

“A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all of the provisions applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, . . . “ Other provisions applicable to bicycle operators include the duty to report accidents, and prepare accident reports, the non-use of headsets covering or the use of earplugs in both ears, licensing ordinances (if applicable), and traffic laws, except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application to the operation of a bicycle.

Some of the more common issues involving bicycle operation in the State of California is the requirement that anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle on a street, bikeway or public bicycle path or trail. This includes children who are sitting in restrained seats or are being towed in a trailer behind a bicycle. Another question deals with whether it is permissible (legal) to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. The answer generally depends upon the jurisdiction in which you’re in; however, while riding a bicycle may seem to be less complicated, bicyclists are required to follow the rules of the road (as well as the rules of the sidewalk). This includes the obvious, like stopping at red lights and signaling before turning.

Another question that typically confuses the bicyclists is which side of the street do you ride the bike on? Slower traffic generally keeps to the right, faster traffic to the left. Since the bicycle is usually the slower form of traffic, it should be ridden near the right side of the road. With very few exceptions, the safest way to ride is as part of the traffic, going with the flow of the normal traffic pattern. There is a slogan that states “riding right begins with riding on the right.” As such, riding on the left, in the direction traffic normally comes from, can, and will result in collisions at driveways and intersections, and are a major hazard for wrong-way riders.

There are a multitude of other vehicle code provisions which apply to bicyclists in the State of California, including a number of equipment requirements and appropriate lighting requirements when operating a bicycle.

There are thousands of accident which occur statewide in California according to the California Highway Patrol. The blame for those accidents is approximately equal on a national level between bicyclists and motorcyclists, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Locally, the California Highway Patrol data shows bicyclists tend to be more at fault. The number one reason bicyclists cause accidents, is that they ride on the wrong side of the road. The leading case of accidents caused by drivers is turning into the path of a cyclist. This occurs at an intersection where the motorists fails to yield the right-of-way to the bike rider. For safety purposes, the general rule of the road would be everything that a car does, you, as a bicyclist should do.

If by chance you become involved in a vehicle or bicycle accident, the attorneys at Heiting & Irwin are well versed in the provisions of the Vehicle Code of the State of California, and are readily available for consultations on all types of vehicle, bicycle, or other personal injury related matters.

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