California Bicycle Laws Overview
As an increasing number of Californians choose to travel by bicycle, it’s vitally important that they — and drivers — understand California bicycle laws. Compared to collisions involving two trucks or automobiles, bicyclists typically sustain more serious injuries. Following our state and community’s bicycle laws might help reduce your risk of injury, and might improve your chances of a financial recovery after an accident. Learn more about California bicycle laws below.
Rules That Every Cyclist Should Know and Follow
Before you hit the road, it’s important to understand how traffic and bicycle laws apply to your conduct. Typically, you must:
- Follow California’s Vehicle Code. Cyclists must comply with traffic control devices, such as stop lights, stop signs, and yield signs.
- Use designated bicycle lanes (when available).
- Ride in the same direction as traffic, unless you are making a left turn, passing another bicycle, or avoiding a pedestrian or vehicle that is within the bicycle lane.
- When there isn’t a bicycle lane, try to stay near the right curb. Unless you are moving faster than vehicle traffic, passing another bicycle, or making a left turn, you should typically stay close to the curb or road’s edge.
- Yield to pedestrian traffic. Pedestrians typically have the right of way — even if they’re outside of a marked crosswalk.
- Do not use sidewalks or crosswalks.
- Use lights and reflectors when biking at night. This includes:
- A white light at the front of your bicycle,
- A red rear reflector or flashing light,
- White or yellow reflectors on your pedals, feet, or ankles, and
- Side reflectors or reflectorized tires.
- Keep one ear open. You can’t wear headphones or earplugs in both ears.
- Do not bike on freeways.
- Never operate a bicycle or vehicle while intoxicated.
- Maintain your brakes and other safety systems.
- And, wear a helmet, especially in you’re under 18 years old.
Violating these laws can result in fines, civil liability, and other penalties.
The California Three Feet for Safety Act
The State of California’s Vehicle Code controls all drivers. However, in addition to its traffic laws, California imposes strict rules on how drivers should behave around cyclists. Typically, a driver must keep a three-foot buffer area between his or her vehicle while passing. And, if circumstances do not allow a three-foot buffer zone, the car or truck must slow down to a reasonable speed and pass when it would not put the cyclist’s safety at risk.
Personal Injury Claims and California Bicycle Law
When a bicycle is involved in a car, truck, or motorcycle wreck, the results can be catastrophic. While car and truck drivers have the benefit of seatbelts, airbags, and other safety systems, cyclists are — at best — protected by helmets and padded clothing. During an impact, a cyclist can easily sustain life-changing and sometimes fatal injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries,
- Broken bones,
- Eye injuries,
- Torn ligaments and other soft tissue injuries,
- Internal organ damage, and
- Lacerations and road rash.
If someone caused or contributed to your bicycle accident injuries, you might have a negligence claim against him or her.
A successful California negligence claim requires proof that:
- The driver owed you a duty of care,
- He or she violated this duty,
- You suffered injuries due to this violation, and
- You have quantifiable damages (such as lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering).
After an accident, you should file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company. While you can do this on your own, it’s typically in your best interest to hire a skilled California bicycle law attorney. A lawyer will advocate on your behalf, negotiate with the insurance company, and educate you about your rights under current California bicycle laws.
Do I Really Need a California Bicycle Attorney?
While you can represent yourself in a bicycle accident claim, it’s not typically in your best interest. California bicycle laws are constantly changing. And, insurance companies frequently try to take advantage of unrepresented cyclists by pressuring them to accept undervalued settlements and trying to get recorded statements that might harm their claims. Even if the insurance adjuster seems pleasant, he or she is not your advocate and cannot give you legal advice.
In comparison, a bicycle accident lawyer at Los Angeles Bicycle Law is on your side. Our lawyers are skilled, aggressive litigators — and passionate cyclists. We understand how bicycling, law, and insurance companies interact, and we will fight for your fair compensation.
Discuss California Bicycle Laws with an Experienced Lawyer
If you’re unsure how California bicycle laws impact your riding or injury claims, contact us for a free evaluation. Our lawyers are readily available to discuss your legal rights and responsibilities. And, unlike other law firms, Los Angeles Bicycle Law solely focuses on bicycle law issues and claims.