Bike Legal cyclists

2018 Rules of the Road

Many of the laws about operating bikes in California are based on common sense. However, there still may be some you aren’t aware of, as new regulations are continuously proposed and passed. Further, some of the old ones aren’t talked about much. Being so, here is a refresher to make sure you’re up to speed, as per the California Vehicle Code, Rules of the Road regarding the Operation of Bicycles (Section 21200-21213).

Bike Lanes

  • Local authorities can construct bicycle lanes separate from vehicular lanes, but they must comply with Section 891 of the Streets and Highways Code.
  • Motorized bikes and class 3 electric bikes cannot be ridden on a trail, bikeway, bicycle path, equestrian trail, recreational or hiking trail, or bike lane established as per Section 21207, unless permitted by the local authority or governing body with jurisdiction.
  • Motor vehicles can’t drive in bicycle lanes established on a roadway except,
    • To park where allowed
    • To leave or enter the roadway
    • To prepare for a turn within 200 feet from an intersection
  • People can’t stop, sit, stand, or loiter on class 1 bikeways or any public or private bike trail or path if it blocks the normal path of a bicyclist. They also can’t park a vehicle, bicycle, or any other object on these types of paths.


  • To ride a bike at night on a highway, bikeway, or sidewalk, it must have: 
    • A white light lamp that lights up the space in front of the bike while in motion and that is visible from 300 feet away (in front and on the sides of the bike).
    • A flashing or solid red light with a reflector that’s built-in or a red reflector on the back of the bike. It must be visible from behind from up to 500 feet away.
    • Yellow or white reflectors on both pedals, shoes, or ankles which can be seen from 200 feet both in front of and behind the bike.
    • Yellow or white reflectors on each side of the front half of the bike, and red or white reflectors on each side of the rear half of the bike. (Reflectorized tires can be used in place of these reflectors.)
    • Note: bikes must have all of the above to be legal to sell
  • You can’t display a solid or flashing blue warning light on a bicycle unless authorized by a subdivision.


  • Cyclists have all the rights and are subject to all of the provisions which apply to drivers of a vehicle. These include all except those that, by their nature, have no application.
  • If you are riding slower than the speed of traffic moving in the same direction as you, you need to ride as close as possible and practicable to the right-hand edge or the right-hand curb (or in a bicycle lane when present). The following exceptions apply:
    • If another bicycle or vehicle is riding slower than you, you can pass them.
    • If you are turning left into a driveway or private road, or at an intersection.
    • If you need to avoid obstacles or unsafe conditions.
    • If you are approaching a place where right turns can be made.
    • If you are on a highway with two or more lanes of traffic all going the same way, you can ride as close as possible to the left-hand curb or edge.
  • Cyclists can’t attach themselves to any vehicle on the roadway or any streetcar, no matter how fun it may sound.
  • To be ridden on the highway, bikes must have regular and permanent seats attached to them, unless the manufacturer designed them without seats.
  • To carry a passenger on the highway, your bike must have a second regular and permanent seat. Children four years old or younger, or under 40 pounds, must have a seat with provisions to keep them in place and protected.
  • You can’t carry an object that prevents you from having at least one hand on the handlebars.
  • You can’t leave your bicycle on a sidewalk laying on its side or park on a sidewalk in any position that blocks pedestrian traffic.
  • People who are under 18 years of age are required to wear a helmet. The helmet must meet the standards of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This includes passengers on bicycles in restraining seats. In order for helmets to be legally sold, they must meet these standards. The fine for breaking this law is no more than $25 and is dismissable if the person alleges in court that this is the first charge for this reason.
  • Minors under 16 years of age can’t operate a class 3 electric bicycle.
  • All riders and passengers of class 3 electric bicycles, no matter their age, must wear a helmet when riding on the street, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path or trail.
  • A person riding a bike cannot wear a headset/earplugs/earphones that cover, rest on or insert into both ears.

Be Safe and Enjoy the Ride!

We hope this blog has helped you to brush up on California’s bicycle laws. If you have any questions or would like to know how these laws may pertain to a situation your facing, our team at Bike Legal is here to help. We are avid cyclists in the Orange County area in addition to being experienced bicycle lawyers, we have a deep understanding of the sport and this area of the law. Meet our attorney team. 

Contact us today at (800) 449-4850 for a free consultation.