In California, Bicycles and Sidewalks Don't Always Mix

In California, Bicycles and Sidewalks Don't Always Mix

Not every cyclist is comfortable sharing the road with cars – and for good reason. Bike fatalities in California have surged in recent years. The years 2016 through 2018 were particularly harrowing. More than 450 cyclists died in traffic accidents during that time, making it the deadliest three-year stretch for cyclists since the mid-1990s. That puts the Golden State among the Top 3 most dangerous states for cycling.

The prevalence of distracted driving and the rising popularity of bicycling is proving to be a deadly combination. The sidewalk seems to present a safer way for cyclists to get around. But is riding on the sidewalk legal? The answer depends on where you are.

Understanding California’s Bicycle Sidewalk Laws

There is no statewide law prohibiting cyclists from riding on the sidewalk. However, California Vehicle Code Section 21206 grants local governments the authority to set their own rules. That means the law will vary from city to city, county to county. Some outright forbid it, others allow it with exceptions, still others have no clear language around the law.

With more than 80 municipalities in LA County, you could be legally riding on the sidewalk one mile and be illegally riding on the sidewalk the next mile. The City of Los Angeles, for example, allows bicycles on sidewalks so long as they are mindful of pedestrians’ safety and are cautious of storefront doors opening onto the sidewalk. The City of Santa Clarita also allows riding bicycles on sidewalks except in a business district.

In short, it is the cyclist’s responsibility to understand and obey the local law.

If You’re Going to Ride on the Sidewalk…

Sometimes riding your bike on the sidewalk is unavoidable. If the designated bike lane is blocked by construction, debris or a traffic accident, you may need to merge onto the sidewalk to get around the obstruction. For others, riding on the sidewalk is a way to avoid a particularly dangerous stretch of roadway. Whatever your reason, you’ll need to exercise caution: While safer on a sidewalk, you’re not quite out of harm’s way. Avoid these common sidewalk-riding hazards:

  • Pedestrians: They’re traveling about 3 mph. You’re traveling about 15 mph (if you’re cautious). That’s a dangerous combination. Plus, pedestrians aren’t looking for cyclists, and they could easily step in your way. Alert others to your presence by ringing a bell and shouting, “On your left!”
  • Riding off the curb: Be careful not to maneuver suddenly into traffic. Most motorists don’t expect a cyclist to merge from the sidewalk.
  • Intersections: Be prepared to slow down or stop at any intersection. This includes driveways and entrances to shopping centers.
  • Doors swinging open: Stay as far from storefronts as possible to avoid colliding into an open door.

Who Should You Turn to in the Event of a Bicycle Accident?

It’s a dangerous world out there for cyclists. Whether you were riding on the sidewalk at the time of your accident or not, the skilled legal team at Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser is prepared to help. If you’ve suffered a bicycle injury, we can provide seasoned counsel.

For more information, all (661) 441-3446 or contact us online today.

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