As the State Transportation Insider, I will be approaching state matters of legislation and safety with a common sense perspective and will include specific laws as they relate to the use of bicycles in our state, including relevant local municipal laws, ordinances and California vehicle codes. I have garnered my expertise in public safety relating to bicycles on public roads in California from my work with the California SHSP (State Highway Safety Plan), FHWA (Federal Highway Administration), CALTRANS (California Dept. of Transportation), CHP and DMV. I will be providing some common sense tips and instructions for riding local and national roads.

When riding a bicycle in the city of Los Angeles, you are permitted by law to ride on a sidewalk “with due care and caution” (LAMC 56.15), but this is not always the case in other districts.

While riding locally, always bear in mind that statewide laws can be supplemented by local municipal laws. For example, when riding a bicycle in the city of Los Angeles, you are permitted by law to ride on a sidewalk “with due care and caution” (LAMC 56.15) but that doesn’t mean that it is lawful to ride on sidewalks everywhere else. If you prefer to ride on sidewalks, check wherever you plan to ride your bike. The consequences for breaking the law can result in judicial inconvenience and even a great monetary loss to you.

According to the law a bicycle is not a vehicle. This can mislead many people to mistakenly believe that they are exempt from vehicle laws, but this is false. In California bicycle riders must obey all vehicle traffic laws (CVC21200) for their safety and the safety of others on the road. This also applies when riding a bike on the bike lane or path.

With regards to safety, there is no law that requires a bike rider over 18 years of age to wear a helmet (CVC21212) but it is not a good idea for a very simple reason: concrete is harder than your head. So just for that reason alone I very strongly recommend that no one should ride a bike without a helmet despite that the law allows this.

Using common sense also means never riding in a way that poses a risk to yourself or those around you. Year round moderately warm and dry climate makes California perfect for riding bikes, however not in terms of legislation. California is not as bike friendly a state our neighbors Oregon and Washington. Both states have a more bike friendly city design with many bike lanes that have barrier protections. Unfortunately, California is a very car-centric state.

Carl Lawton, a State transportation Insider, will be discussing common sense practices regarding bicycles on public roads in California. You can send your roadway safety questions to [email protected]