What laws apply to cyclists?

On Behalf of Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP

Bicyclists face numerous risks when riding on the street with passenger vehicles. Many drivers fail to notice the presence of cyclists, which can lead to serious collisions and injuries. Other motorists may behave harshly towards bikes on the road, which can cause even more damage. 

While drivers must take every precaution to prevent injuries to cyclists, cyclists must also follow rules when riding their bikes. Here are a few of the laws relevant to bike riders in California so you can keep safe while riding. 

Helmets & equipment 

While adults are not obligated to wear a helmet when riding, any rider or passenger under the age of 18 must wear a helmet at all times. All bikes must be outfitted with a braking system that allows riders to skid to a stop on dry pavement by applying the brake to one wheel. When riding at night, a headlight must be attached to the bike itself or the cyclist riding it. Nighttime riders must also have reflectors on the front, back, and both sides of the bicycle. 

Where cyclists are allowed to ride 

California features many bike lanes, which cyclists must use whenever available. When riding on the street with other traffic, cyclists are obligated to ride as close to the right side of the road as possible. However, a cyclist is permitted to diverge from this area if a road hazard is present, if the person is passing another vehicle, or if the road is too narrow. This is referred to as “taking the lane” and motorists must respect the cyclist’s position. When riding on the street, cyclists must always go with the flow of traffic. 

Other important laws 

Much like with drivers of passenger vehicles, cyclists are not permitted to operate their bikes while under the influence. They are also not allowed to ride with earbuds or headphones while riding. Cyclists are permitted to use mobile devices while riding, however. 

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