Bicycling in California requires cyclists to know and obey local rules. No universal law in the state prohibits bicyclists from riding on sidewalks. However, local municipalities have the freedom to initiate their own laws regarding sidewalk riding. With statistics such as 457 bicyclists injured and killed in San Diego in 2016, many cyclists may want to stick to sidewalks to reduce their odds of bike collisions with motor vehicles. Most business districts in California, however, do not allow biking on sidewalks.
Where and When Cyclists Can Ride on Sidewalks
Bicycles classify as vehicles according to California law. This gives them the same rights to the roads as motor vehicles in the state. Bikers have the right to share the road with vehicles in the state’s streets, but they must stay as far to the right-hand side of the road as possible, except to avoid debris or make a left turn. Bicyclists must obey all roadway rules and regulations. They must stop at red lights and stop signs, yield the right-of-way to others when applicable, and signal turns and stops.
If a road in California offers a bicycle lane, cyclists must use the bike lane instead of the roadway. The only exceptions are if the bicycle lane is unsafe due to construction or a roadway defect. If a bicyclist does not want to use a bicycle lane or the road, he or she may have limited options depending on the city. Five cities in California have completely banned bicyclists from riding on sidewalks: Carlsbad, El Cajon, Escondido, National City, and Vista. Biking on sidewalks at all in these cities could result in fines.
Most other cities in California permit bicyclists to ride on sidewalks, either all over or only in residential areas. The City of Los Angeles permits riding bicycles on sidewalks, even in business districts, as long as cyclists do so with regard for the safety of pedestrians and property. In San Diego’s business districts, however, bicyclists must stay off of sidewalks. Other cities that ban bicycling on sidewalks downtown are Oceanside, Encinitas, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Santee, and Lemon Grove. Escondido and San Marcos do not ban bicycling in business districts, but do restrict it.
Cycling Safely in California
Obeying citywide bicycle-riding laws is one of the best ways to avoid collisions as a cyclist. Following the rules can keep your actions predictable to motor vehicle drivers. This can help them see you and drive safely near you. If a city has a rule in place prohibiting riding on sidewalks, it is for the safety of pedestrians. Most places that ban it entirely are those where hundreds of pedestrians walk the sidewalks each day. A cyclist in these areas could strike or scare passing pedestrians.
As a bicyclist, it is your responsibility to obey municipal rules that apply to you. Research the bicycle laws in your city before you ride. If the law does permit you to ride on the sidewalk, always yield to pedestrians. Use a horn, bell, or other audible signal to warn pedestrians before you overtake them. Ride at a safe and prudent speed. Always watch for vehicles that may pass through the sidewalk crossing from driveways to the main road. Drivers often neglect to stop and look both ways for bikers before proceeding across a sidewalk.
If you use your right to ride in the road, other drivers must give you the same respect as a motorist. They must yield you the right-of-way when appropriate, and keep at least three feet of following distance between you. A driver infringing upon your rights to the road could result in grounds for a personal injury claim against the driver. Whether you use your right to ride on the road or on a sidewalk in California, do so safely.
If you were injured in a bike collision with a vehicle in California, contact the team at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case! (619) 295-0035