August 3rd, 2020| Understanding California’s bicycle laws is essential for every cyclist in our state. From helmet laws to bicycle lane laws, California is very specific about what’s expected of cyclists. To begin our comprehensive list of California’s bicycle laws, let’s start with the required equipment.
Bicycle Helmet Laws in CaliforniaCalifornia law is clear about the helmet requirements for riders under the age of 18. Parents are responsible for ensuring that minors have proper equipment when they ride.
Cyclists Under the Age of 18No cyclist under the age of 18 should ride a bike without a helmet. That helmet must be properly fitted and fastened. 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). This also applies to any bicycle passenger in a restraining seat attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle. Helmets must be clearly labeled by the manufacturer to display compliance with the safety standards of the ASTM or the CPSC.
Cyclists Age 18 and OlderThere are no state requirements for cyclists age 18 and older. But, you should always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle for safety purposes. Wearing a bicycle helmet reduces your risk of suffering a head injury by more than 50%. When buying a helmet, make sure it is in keeping with CPSC standards.
More Laws Regarding Bicycle Equipment and SizeIn addition to helmet requirements, cyclists in California must ensure their bikes also meet certain requirements:
- Cyclists can’t operate a bike on a roadway unless the bicycle has a brake that will enable the cyclist “to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement,” which is the legal standard for an effective bicycle brake.
- A bike’s handlebars should never be positioned so that the cyclist must elevate their hands above shoulder level to steer.
- A cyclist shouldn’t ride a bike so big that its size prevents them from “safely stopping the bicycle, supporting it in an upright position with at least one foot on the ground, and restarting it in a safe manner.”
- A light that illuminates the road in front of the cyclist and is visible from 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle. This light can be attached to the bike or the bicyclist.
- Either a red reflector, solid red lights, or flashing red lights visible from 500 feet to the rear of the bike.
- A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from 200 feet to the front or rear of the bicycle.
- A white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle, and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bicycle. Bicycles that are equipped with reflective front and rear tires are exempt.
- All reflectors or reflective tires should meet state requirements.
Rights and Responsibilities of Cyclists in CaliforniaCalifornia law states that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. This means that the same rules (adhering to traffic signs and signals, watching out for pedestrians, signaling when turning) apply to bicyclists as they do for car drivers. It’s illegal for cyclists to ride a bike while they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Bicyclists traveling at speeds slower than the normal flow of traffic must ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway UNLESS:
- They are passing another bike or vehicle.
- They are turning left.
- Conditions of the road make traveling on the right-hand side dangerous.
- They are approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
- They are traveling on a one-way street with two lanes, in which case riding as close to the left-hand side of the road as possible is allowed.
- It is unsafe to do so,
- You’re turning, or
- You need to pass another cyclist.