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Six Bicycle Laws You Need to Know

As summer gets closer, more and more people are choosing to ride their bikes around Los Angeles. If you choose to ride a bicycle in Los Angeles it is important to understand your obligations as a rider. Do you know the most important bicycle laws in California? We’ve put together a list of bicycle laws you need to know to stay safe.

1. If there is a bicycle lane you must use it.

California law requires all bicyclists traveling slower than other traffic to use and remain in dedicated bicycle lanes, whenever possible. Bicyclists may ride outside of bicycle lanes if it is necessary to:

  • Pass another bicycle or vehicle if it cannot be done safely within the lane;
  • Make a left-hand turn at an intersection or into a private drive;
  • Avoid debris or hazards;
  • Make a right-hand turn.

If it is necessary to leave the bike lane, bicyclists must wait until it is safe to do so and use appropriate signals.

[California Vehicle Code Section 21208]

2. Ride with the flow of traffic.

While a bicycle is not considered a vehicle for the purposes of California state law, bicyclists are subject to local traffic laws. This means that bicyclists are generally required to ride on the right-hand side of the road and follow the direction of traffic. Riding against traffic on the wrong side of the road increases the probability of an accident. Cyclists may ride on the opposite side of the road, or against traffic, if:

  • Passing another vehicle or bike;
  • Making a left-hand turn;
  • Riding on a one-way street; or
  • Roads are under construction or too narrow.

[California Vehicle Code Section 21650]

3. Bikes must have lights and reflectors.

Many bicycle accidents happen because riders are difficult to see in the dark. California law requires all bicyclists traveling at night to have lights and reflectors installed on their bikes.

Lights: A white headlight must be visible at a distance of 300 feet from the front of the bicycle at all times after dark. The light can be installed on the bicycle itself or worn by the rider.

Reflectors: Bicycles must have reflectors installed that are visible from the front, back, and sides. Reflectors must be visible from a distance of 200 feet.

  • Front: White or yellow pedal reflectors
  • Back: Red reflector
  • Side, Front Half: White or yellow reflectors
  • Side, Back Half: Red or white reflectors.

Some reflectors may not be required if your bicycle is outfitted with special reflectorized tires.

[California Vehicle Code Section 21201(d)]

4. Minors must wear helmets.

If you are under the age of 18 you are required, by law, to wear a helmet while operating a bicycle. Research shows that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of suffering a head injury by 69% and the risk of death by 37%. All riders in Los Angeles, regardless of age, are encouraged to wear a helmet.

[California Vehicle Code Section 21212]

5. Riding a bike under the influence is illegal.

If you think that riding your bike after having a few drinks is a better choice than driving, think again. In California, it is illegal “for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug.” Drugs and alcohol can significantly impair your ability to navigate a bicycle safely on Los Angeles roads. Riders who are drunk or high are more likely to veer into traffic and cause a serious accident.

Riding a bike under the influence can result in a fine of $250.

[California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5]

6. Pedestrians generally have the right of way.

When you ride a bike in Los Angeles you must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are lawfully within marked crosswalks or intersections. Pedestrians have an obligation to make sure that it is safe before they enter the roadway, so you must use caution and yield to them after they’ve committed to crossing the street.  [California Vehicle Code Section 21950]

Bicyclists must also yield the right of way to pedestrians who are blind and assisted by a guide dog or white cane, regardless of where that pedestrian is on the roadway. [California Vehicle Code Section 21963]

Get Help Today

Have you recently been injured in a Los Angeles bicycle accident? Contact Glotzer & Leib, LLP to find out how we can help you recover an award of damages. The money you recover can help to pay for medical bills, make up for lost wages, and compensate for the emotional stress of your accident. We offer a free consultation, so do not hesitate to contact our experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorneys today.

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