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California Bike Laws

Living in the Golden State has its perks, not the least of which is extended summers and terrain ranging from beaches to mountains. There is always something new to explore. Navigating your way along the trails of Yellowstone offers a sense of freedom, but if you’re in a city traveling by road, there are a lot of rules to follow. California bicycle laws are reasonable – but the penalties for breaking them may be fierce. Here are some of the most common laws to know about if you’re biking in California:

Do I Have to Wear a Helmet?

Only people under the age of 18 are required by law to wear a helmet while cycling in California. According to California Vehicle Code 21212, the helmet must meet the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Is It Illegal to Ride a Bike on the Sidewalk in California?

There is no statewide law regarding bike riding on the sidewalk in California. Instead, counties and cities are allowed to create their own regulations. It’s legal to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles, for instance, but most cities in the East Bay area of Northern California only allow you to walk your bike on the sidewalk. When in doubt, stick to the road.

Can I Use a Cell Phone on a Bike?

Drivers are banned from using mobile phones in cars unless they’re hands-free – but this law does not apply to cyclists. You may check a text or your GPS screen as long as you may do so safely (such as at a stop sign). Technically, you can also take a phone call, but it’s probably a good idea to go hands-free when you’re chatting on a bike even if the law doesn’t demand it.

What Should I Do When There’s Not a Bike Lane?

Bikes must ride in the same direction of traffic throughout California. Bike lane rules in California require you to use a lane whenever it exists, with a few exceptions. If you’re making a legal left turn, avoiding a hazard in the lane, or passing someone you may leave the bike lane when it’s safe to do so.

Are Reflectors Required?

Yes, bikers in California must use reflectors on their bikes so that drivers can easily identify them on the road. A white light must be used at night (it can be attached to the bike or your own head), and a red reflector must be visible from the behind of the bike. White or yellow reflectors must also be placed on the side and front of the bicycle.

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