Bicycling Laws in California

California law regarding bicycles is a bit different than other states. California is not a “mandatory side path” state, so bicyclists are allowed outside of standard bicycling facilities. This page will state those laws as they are worded directly from the California Vehicle Code. This listing may not cover all laws related to bicycling in California. Interpretation of those laws is not something this site can do. If you have any questions or wish for clarification, please let us know and we will gladly assist.

California Vehicle Codes Relating to the
Operation of Bicycles
Division 11 – Article 4
from the CVC 2015 book

Laws Applicable to Bicycle Use: Peace Officer Exemption
21200.
(a) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a
highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions
applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including,
but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence
of alcoholic beverages or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), Section 27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000), Division 17 (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18 (commencing with Section 42000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
(b) (1) A peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing
with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, operating a
bicycle during the course of his or her duties is exempt from the
requirements of subdivision (a), except as those requirements relate
to driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, if
the bicycle is being operated under any of the following
circumstances:
(A) In response to an emergency call.
(B) While engaged in rescue operations.
(C) In the immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of
the law.
(2) This subdivision does not relieve a peace officer from the
duty to operate a bicycle with due regard for the safety of all
persons using the highway.

Riding Bicycle Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
21200.5.
Notwithstanding Section 21200, it is unlawful for any
person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of
an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. Any person arrested for a
violation of this section may request to have a chemical test made of
the person’s blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining
the alcoholic or drug content of that person’s blood pursuant to
Section 23612, and, if so requested, the arresting officer shall have
the test performed. A conviction of a violation of this section
shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty
dollars ($250). Violations of this section are subject to Section
13202.5.

Equipment Requirements
21201.
(a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it
is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one
braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
(b) No person shall operate on the highway a bicycle equipped with
handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his hands above
the level of his shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip
area.
(c) No person shall operate upon a highway a bicycle that is of a
size that prevents the operator from safely stopping the bicycle,
supporting it in an upright position with at least one foot on the
ground, and restarting it in a safe manner.
(d) A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk
where bicycle operation is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction,
or a bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways
Code, shall be equipped with all of the following:
(1) A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in
motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the
bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and
from the sides of the bicycle.
(2) A red reflector on the rear that shall be visible from a
distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful
upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.
(3) 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.
(4) 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, except that bicycles that are
equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need not
be equipped with these side reflectors. The reflectors and reflectorized tires shall be of a type meeting requirements established by the department.
(e) A lamp or lamp combination, emitting a white light, attached
to the operator and visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and
from the sides of the bicycle, may be used in lieu of the lamp
required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (d).

Bicycle or Motorized Bicycle Lights
21201.3.
(a) A bicycle or motorized bicycle used by a peace
officer, as defined in Section 830.1 of, subdivision (a), (b), (c),
(d), (e), (f), (g), or (i) of Section 830.2 of, subdivision (b) or
(d) of Section 830.31 of, subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 830.32
of, Section 830.33 of, subdivision (a) of Section 830.36 of,
subdivision (a) of Section 830.4 of, or Section 830.6 of, the Penal
Code, in the performance of the peace officer’s duties, may display a
steady or flashing blue warning light that is visible from the
front, sides, or rear of the bicycle or motorized bicycle.
(b) No person shall display a steady or flashing blue warning
light on a bicycle or motorized bicycle except as authorized under
subdivision (a).

Reflectorized Equipment
21201.5.
(a) No person shall sell, or offer for sale, a reflex
reflector or reflectorized tire of a type required on a bicycle
unless it meets requirements established by the department. If there exists a federal Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation applicable to bicycle reflectors, the provisions of that regulation shall prevail over provisions of this code or requirements
established by the department pursuant to this code relative to
bicycle reflectors.
(b) No person shall sell, or offer for sale, a new bicycle that is
not equipped with a red reflector on the rear, a white or yellow
reflector on each pedal visible from the front and rear of the
bicycle, 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, except that bicycles which are
equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and rear need not be
equipped with these side reflectors.
(c) Area reflectorizing material meeting the requirements of
Section 25500 may be used on a bicycle.

Operation on Roadway
21202.
(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed
less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction
at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand
curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following
situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle
proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a
private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but
not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles,
pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes)
that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge,
subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this
section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for
a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the
lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway,
which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or
more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or
edge of that roadway as practicable.

Hitching Rides
21203.
No person riding upon any motorcycle, motorized bicycle,
bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach
the same or himself to any streetcar or vehicle on the roadway.

Riding on Bicycle
21204.
(a) A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not
ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, unless the bicycle was designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat.
(b) An operator shall not allow a person riding as a passenger,
and a person shall not ride as a passenger, on a bicycle upon a
highway other than upon or astride a separate seat attached thereto. If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place and for protecting the passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle.

Carrying Articles
21205.
No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package,
bundle or article which prevents the operator from keeping at least
one hand upon the handlebars.

Local Regulation
21206.
This chapter does not prevent local authorities, by
ordinance, from regulating the registration of bicycles and the
parking and operation of bicycles on pedestrian or bicycle
facilities, provided such regulation is not in conflict with the
provisions of this code.

Bicycle Lanes
21207.
(a) This chapter does not prohibit local authorities from
establishing, by ordinance or resolution, bicycle lanes separated
from any vehicular lanes upon highways, other than state highways as defined in Section 24 of the Streets and Highways Code and county highways established pursuant to Article 5 (commencing with Section 1720) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Streets and Highways Code.
(b) Bicycle lanes established pursuant to this section shall be
constructed in compliance with Section 891 of the Streets and
Highways Code.

Motorized Bicycles: Prohibited Operation
21207.5.
Notwithstanding Sections 21207 and 23127 of this code, or any other provision of law, no motorized bicycle may be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane established pursuant to Section 21207, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail,
unless it is within or adjacent to a roadway or unless the local
authority or the governing body of a public agency having
jurisdiction over such path or trail permits, by ordinance, such
operation.

Permitted Movements from Bicycle Lanes
21208.
(a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a
roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle
upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic
moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the
bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane under
any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or
pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the
overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a
private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid
debris or other hazardous conditions.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until
the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement.

Motor Vehicles and Motorized Bicycles in Bicycle Lanes
21209.
(a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane
established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207 except as follows:
(1) To park where parking is permitted.
(2) To enter or leave the roadway.
(3) To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the
intersection.
(b) This section does not prohibit the use of a motorized bicycle
in a bicycle lane, pursuant to Section 21207.5, at a speed no greater
than is reasonable or prudent, having due regard for visibility,
traffic conditions, and the condition of the roadway surface of the
bicycle lane, and in a manner which does not endanger the safety of
bicyclists.

Bicycle Parking
21210.
No person shall leave a bicycle lying on its side on any
sidewalk, or shall park a bicycle on a sidewalk in any other
position, so that there is not an adequate path for pedestrian
traffic. Local authorities may, by ordinance or resolution, prohibit
bicycle parking in designated areas of the public highway, provided
that appropriate signs are erected.

Obstruction of Bikeways or Bicycle Paths or Trails
21211.
(a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class
I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the
Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle
path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering
impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any
bicyclist.
(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other
object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in
subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable
movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is
necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the
law.
(c) This section does not apply to drivers or owners of utility or
public utility vehicles, as provided in Section 22512.
(d) This section does not apply to owners or drivers of vehicles
who make brief stops while engaged in the delivery of newspapers to customers along the person’s route.
(e) This section does not apply to the driver or owner of a
rubbish or garbage truck while actually engaged in the collection of
rubbish or garbage within a business or residence district if the
front turn signal lamps at each side of the vehicle are being flashed
simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side of the
vehicle are being flashed simultaneously.
(f) This section does not apply to the driver or owner of a tow
vehicle while actually engaged in the towing of a vehicle if the
front turn signal lamps at each side of the vehicle are being flashed
simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side of the
vehicle are being flashed simultaneously.

Youth Bicycle Helmets: Minors
21212.
(a) A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a
bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a nonmotorized
scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as
defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any
other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a
properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or standards subsequently established by those entities. This requirement also applies to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat that is attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.
(b) Any helmet sold or offered for sale for use by operators and
passengers of bicycles, nonmotorized scooters, skateboards, or
in-line or roller skates shall be conspicuously labeled in accordance
with the standard described in subdivision (a) which shall
constitute the manufacturer’s certification that the helmet conforms to the applicable safety standards.
(c) No person shall sell, or offer for sale, for use by an
operator or passenger of a bicycle, nonmotorized scooter, skateboard, or in-line or roller skates any safety helmet which is not of a type meeting requirements established by this section.
(d) Any charge under this subdivision shall be dismissed when the
person charged alleges in court, under oath, that the charge against
the person is the first charge against that person under this
subdivision, unless it is otherwise established in court that the
charge is not the first charge against the person.
(e) Except as provided in subdivision (d), a violation of this
section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than
twenty-five dollars ($25). The parent or legal guardian having control or custody of an unemancipated minor whose conduct violates this section shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for the amount of the fine imposed pursuant to this subdivision.
(f) Notwithstanding Section 1463 of the Penal Code or any other
provision of law, the fines collected for a violation of this section
shall be allocated as follows:
(1) Seventy-two and one-half percent of the amount collected shall
be deposited in a special account of the county health department,
to be used for bicycle, nonmotorized scooter, skateboard, and in-line
and roller skate safety education and for assisting low-income
families in obtaining approved bicycle helmets for children under the age of 18 years, either on a loan or purchase basis. The county may contract for the implementation of this program, which, to the extent practicable, shall be operated in conjunction with the child
passenger restraint program pursuant to Section 27360.
(2) Two and one-half percent of the amount collected shall be
deposited in the county treasury to be used by the county to
administer the program described in paragraph (1).
(3) If the violation occurred within a city, 25 percent of the
amount collected shall be transferred to and deposited in the
treasury of that city. If the violation occurred in an unincorporated
area, this 25 percent shall be deposited and used pursuant to
paragraph (1).

CHAPTER 3. Driving, Overtaking, and Passing [21650 – 21759] ( Chapter 3 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )

ARTICLE 3. Overtaking and Passing [21750 – 21760] ( Article 3 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )

Three Feet for Safety Act
21760.

(a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the Three Feet for Safety Act.
(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.
(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.
(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.
(e) (1) A violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) is an infraction punishable by a fine of thirty-five dollars ($35).
(2) If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the operator of the bicycle, and the driver of the motor vehicle is found to be in violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d), a two-hundred-twenty-dollar ($220) fine shall be imposed on that driver.
(f) This section shall become operative on September 16, 2014.
(Added by Stats. 2013, Ch. 331, Sec. 3. Effective January 1, 2014. Section operative September 16, 2014, by its own provisions.)

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