California Bicycle Laws

The California bicycle laws are one of the most circumstantial amongst the bike laws passed by different states of the United States. There is much to know before you start biking in California, but sadly most people need to conduct thorough research because the information is completely scattered.

In this article, we’re going to make your life easier by compiling all the necessary information regarding California bike laws. Once you go through this entire article, you’ll have all your questions answered. So, let’s get right into it!

The information provided in this article is not legal advice. None of our writers are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. The information published in this blog is provided for entertainment and educational purposes only. We do our best to explain the rules and regulations in easy to understand language. Although we do extensive research to make sure our information is accurate and useful, our synopsis may not reflect current legal developments or address your situation. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on this article.

California Bike Laws

Rights and Duties

First and foremost, every adult bicyclist will have the same rights and duties as vehicle drivers. This means that you won’t be differentiated from the vehicle riders. However, you’ll definitely enjoy some extra perks, and there are certain rules that’ll apply to bicycle riders only. As you’ll have to oblige by the duties of a vehicle driver, you’ll have to stop at red lights as well as stop signs.

Riding with Traffic

As a cyclist, you’ll have to ride in traffic. This means that you’ll have to ride in the same direction as every other traffic of that lane. If you must go in the opposite direction, you’ll need to dismount and carry the bike with you through the sidewalk.

Riding After Sunset

When you’re riding after sunset, you should equip your bike with a white headlight that can be seen from a distance of 300 feet at least. You must also have a red tail reflector that can be seen from a distance of 500 feet. Plus, you’re also required to have a yellow or white reflector on each pedal, and these reflectors must be seen from 200 feet at least.

Unless your bike has reflectorized tires, it must have two white reflectors on each side of the front, and red reflectors on each side of the tail.

Usage of Headphones

When you’re riding a bike, you must have at least one ear open. This means that you can’t have an earbud on both of your ears, and you can’t have a headphone that covers both of your ears. Plus, having a break is not enough, rather you must have a brake that’s functional.

Three Feet for Safety Act

There’s also the California Three Feet for Safety Act that you must follow while overtaking another rider. This states that a cyclist who’s overtaking another cyclist or any other vehicle on the same lane must shift to the left. You shouldn’t switch back to the former lane until you’re well ahead of the vehicle you just crossed. When you’re crossing the vehicle, you should maintain a distance of three feet at least.

California Bicycle License

You don’t need a license to drive either a regular or electric bike in California.

California Electric Bike Laws

In California, Electric bikes that are rated as type 1 and 2 aren’t considered electric bikes even. Typically, type 1 and 2 bikes are those that can’t exceed a speed of 20 mph. In California, you can’t ride a class 3 bike that has a supported top speed of 28mph. You can’t run gas-powered bikes on roads or trails unless you can manage a permit from the local authority.

You don’t need any license to ride a high-speed electric bike. However, you must wear a helmet while riding one of these. You can’t ride an electric bike on the sidewalk in most areas. Wherever you can ride regular bikes on the sidewalk, you can ride an electric bike as well.

California Bike Helmet Laws

According to CVC 21212, both bicyclists and bicycle passengers must wear an approved helmet while riding as long as they’re under the age of 18. Wearing a helmet isn’t mandatory for those who are older than 18, but we recommend wearing one for safety anyway.

California Bike Lane Laws

As a bicyclist, you’re most likely to move slower than the other vehicles on the road. So, when you’re riding on roads, you’re required to stick to the right-hand curb all the time. However, you can ride in the other lanes when you’re moving as fast as the other vehicles. You can also shift to the left lane before you take a turn to the left.

If you’re on the roadway, you should ride the bike lane if possible. You can stray from the bike lane for three reasons. One, you want to overtake a slower vehicle. Two, you need to take a turn to the left, and three, there are obstructions on the bike lane.


Then again, you can’t ride on crosswalks when there’s a stop sign or a red light. You need to stop at the crosswalk, not in the crosswalk. There’s a workaround to this. You can always dismount and walk your way across the crosswalk and into the sidewalk. Bikes aren’t allowed to cross toll bridges unless they have a special permit.


Is it illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in California?

In most parts of the downtown areas, it’s prohibited to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, be it a regular or an electric bike. However, there are certain areas where you can ride a bike on the sidewalk. You can ride even an electric bike on the sidewalk in these areas. This is why you’re recommended to inquire especially about the location you’re visiting.

Do bicycles have to stop at stop signs in California?

Yes. Bicycle riders are treated as any other vehicle rider in California, so you’re required to stop at stop signs.


These are the major California bicycle laws that you must follow to ride safely in California. Following these rules will not only keep you safe from any accident, but it’ll also keep you safe from law enforcement. Even though you won’t need any license to ride a bike, you’ll still be penalized when you break a law. This is why we highly recommend memorizing these laws before you go riding in California!

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