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California City Bike Laws

The Three Feet for Safety Act went into effect on September 16, 2014. This act mandates California motorists to give people on bikes at least three feet of space when passing them on the road, and also provides a way for law enforcement to enforce safe passing. (California Vehicle Code section 21760)

While the California Vehicle Code and Department of Motor Vehicles set forth the laws and rules pertaining to bicycles some major cities in California have additional local ordinances. One consistent exception is the law for riding bikes on sidewalks which always points to local ordinances.

The following are bicycle laws pertaining to some of the major cities in California.

San Diego

  • Each city in the county regulates sidewalk riding slightly differently. Here’s a brief rundown:
    • Bicycle riding is allowed on sidewalks, except in business districts: Oceanside, Encinitas, San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Santee, and unincorporated San Diego County
    • Bicycle riding on sidewalks forbidden at all times in Carlsbad, El Cajon, Vista, Poway
    • Riding on sidewalks regulated but not forbidden: Escondido, San Marcos
    • Not regulated: Solana Beach, La Mesa
    • Riding in parks prohibited: Del Mar
  • Local parking regulations apply to bicycles. Basic rule–follow the signs
  • Helmet laws are under review at both the state and local level which may require helmets for all bicyclists regardless of age

Los Angeles

From the LA Municipal Code:

  • Off-Street Automobile Parking Requirements (LAMC 12.21 A.4)
  • Bicycle Parking and Shower Facilities (LAMC 12.21 A.16)
  • Sidewalk Riding (LAMC 56.15) Prohibits the riding of bicycles (or other human power devices) on sidewalks (bikeways or boardwalks) with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Disallows the riding of bicycles on Ocean Front Walk in Venice
  • Bicyclist Anti-harassment (LAMC 45.96.02) Prohibits physical assault, threats, and intentional distractions against people riding bicycle

San Francisco

Pursuant to the SF Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) San Francisco bicyclists must:

  • Yield to People Walking. Whether they’re in a crosswalk or not, ALWAYS yield to people walking.
  • Stop BEHIND the Crosswalk: Always stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.
  • Stay on the Street: It’s illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk unless you’re younger than 13 years of age. (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)
  • Ride in the Direction of Traffic: If you can’t go with the flow, it’s okay to WALK your bike on the sidewalk!
  • Sometimes people with disabilities need access to the curb. Paratransit carriers (including taxis) may have to enter the bikeway to drop them off. Be a good neighbor and give them room. (SFMTA Policy)

Sacramento

  • Except as authorized under subsection B of this section, no person shall ride a bicycle on a sidewalk except within a residence district or where a sidewalk is designated as part of an established bicycle route. Pedestrians shall have the right-of-way on sidewalks. (Sacramento City Code Section 10.76.010 (A))
  • Any person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk which is designated by the Director as a part of the County bike route system and which is identified for such use by appropriate signs. (Sacramento County Code 139 § 1, 1973; Ord. 703 § 31, 1960)
  • No person shall ride any bicycle, roller skates, skateboard or other wheeled device within any light rail right-of-way; provided, however, that a person may ride a bicycle across a light rail right-of-way perpendicular to the tracks.  (Sacramento City Code Section 10.72.040)
  • No person, except an employee of the city who is acting within the scope of his or her employment, shall ride a bicycle off-road on any property which is owned or controlled by the city where signs prohibiting the off-road riding of bicycles are posted:

    For the purposes of this section, “off-road” shall mean not on a designated bicycle path or     paved right-of-way. (Sacramento City Code Section 10.76.040)

San Jose

  • Sidewalk riding is legal except where posted.  This is a new (2015) law, and it covers several downtown blocks.  (San Jose Municipal Code 11.72.190)
  • Bicycles may be walked on a roadway subject to all provisions of law applicable to pedestrians. (San Jose Municipal Code 11.72.160)

Oakland

  • It is unlawful to operate a bicycle on any trail within the city in an unsafe, reckless, dangerous or negligent manner. No person shall operate a bicycle in excess of fifteen (15) miles per hour, nor in excess of five miles per hour when passing pedestrians or equestrians or when approaching and negotiating a blind turn, nor at a greater speed then is reasonable or prudent. Within city parks, bicyclists can ride on named trails only and are prohibited from operating bicycles off-trail. (Oakland Municipal Code 12.60.020)
  • No person shall ride a bicycle which has wheels of twenty (20) inches or greater in diameter or a frame of fourteen (14) inches or greater in length on any sidewalk within the city. (Oakland Municipal Code 10.16.150)

Fresno

  • No person shall operate a bicycle or unicycle on a sidewalk in the central business district, or on any street designated as a mall street by the provisions of this Code. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. At the intersection of two or more sidewalks, where the vision of the operator of a bicycle is restricted, the operator of a bicycle shall dismount and walk through the intersection of the sidewalks. (Fresno Municipal Code Sec.14-1703)
  • No operator of a bicycle shall ride in any part of a park or playground other than upon roads or drives provided for such purposes. (Fresno Municipal Code Sec.14-1603)

Riverside

  • Except for authorized police bicycle patrols, no person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk or parkway unless signs are erected permitting use of such sidewalk or parkway by bicycles. (Riverside Municipal Code 10.64.310)

Long Beach

  • Persons operating bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. (Long Beach Municipal Code 10.48.040)
  • When a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway. (Long Beach Municipal Code 10.48.060)
  • No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within any business district; upon the sidewalks of bridges; in pedestrian underpasses; on pedestrian overpasses.  Any person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and when overtaking and passing a pedestrian, shall give an audible signal and shall pass to the left of the pedestrian.  The speed limit for bicycles on a sidewalk is 15 miles per hour unless otherwise posted. The speed limit where pedestrians are present is five miles per hour.  (Long Beach Municipal Code 10.48.070)
  • No person shall operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk unless it is equipped with a bell, horn or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a bicycle, any siren or whistle. (Long Beach Municipal Code 10.48.070)