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California Bicycle Accident Law

It’s important to know the California bicycle laws before riding your bike.

The California Vehicle Code protects everyone who uses the road in the state – including motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. In California, bike riders generally have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers, and both are expected to coexist on the roadways. Due to their nature as a slower vehicle with less physical protection, there are additional rules regarding bikes. Below are a few examples of California bicycle laws.

Staying to the Right

People on bicycles must ride with the flow of traffic. Bike riders traveling on a road at a slower speed than normal traffic must ride in a designated bike lane or as closely to the right side of the road as possible. However, bike riders do have the right to move into another lane in certain situations, including when:

Passing another bicycle, pedestrian or motor vehicle traveling in the same direction,

Preparing for a left turn at an intersection, onto a private road, or into a driveway,

Avoiding hazardous road conditions,

Avoiding a lane that is too narrow, or

Approaching an area of the road where a right turn is allowed.

Bicyclists may ride as closely to the left-hand side of the road as possible when traveling on a road with two or more lanes and one direction of traffic only.

The Three Feet Rule

According to California’s Three Feet for Safety Act (Section 21670 of the California Vehicle Code), motorists must provide a distance of at least three feet when overtaking or passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction. If traffic or roadway conditions prevent a motorist from complying with the three feet rule, the driver must slow to a reasonable speed and only pass the bicycle when it’s safe to do so.

Even when keeping an adequate distance from a bike, motor vehicle drivers are expected to make safe, predictable movements to protect the riders around them.

Required Equipment for Bicycle Riders

To protect bicyclists from injury, the California Vehicle Code has rules regarding safety equipment and using certain items while riding. These include:

Lights and reflectors: When riding at night, bicyclists must have a lamp with white light that illuminates the road. They must also have a red reflector on the back of the bike, a white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe or ankle, a white or yellow reflector on each side of the front half of the bike, and a white or red reflector on each side of the rear half. Section 21201 of the California Vehicle Code offers more details about these requirements.

Mobile devices: Bike riders may use a handheld cell phone while traveling.

Before riding a bicycle, it’s helpful to review the state laws outlined in Article 4 of the California Vehicle Code, called “Operation of Bicycles” (21200 to 21213).

San Diego Rules Regarding Bicycles

The San Diego Municipal Code outlines additional restrictions for people riding bicycles. These rules are as follows:

  1. No one may operate a bicycle on any sidewalk in front of a commercial business establishment unless official signs are posted authorizing it.
  2. Any person riding a bicycle on a sidewalk or right-of-way not open to public vehicular traffic must exercise due care and yield to pedestrians.
  3. No person may operate a bicycle at an unreasonable speed on any sidewalk or right-of-way that is not open to public vehicular traffic, keeping pedestrian traffic and safety in mind.
  4. No person may operate a cycle, with the sole exception of conventional one- or two-person bicycles, one behind the other with wheels one behind the other, on Ocean Front Walk or Ocean Boulevard and Bayside Walk. This rule does not apply to people with disabilities or those incapable of operating a conventional bicycle.

Knowing your rights and duties can ensure you’re riding according to state law. If you were injured in a collision with a motor vehicle while riding a bike, we can help you protect your rights. For more than 70 years, the attorneys at CaseyGerry have been representing people who were hurt by negligent drivers. We welcome you to call us for a confidential consultation.

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