With beautiful landscapes, an eco-friendly culture, and thousands of miles of scenic trails, California is home to some of the most enthusiastic bicyclists in the entire country. But with more riders on the road comes a higher accident rate. In fact, California had more cyclist fatalities in 2016 than any other state.
To curb this statistic and keep riders safe, state legislators have enacted laws aimed at preventing cyclists from putting themselves and other people at risk. Below are eight regulations you should know before hopping on the saddle:
1. Riding under the influence has many of the same penalties as driving under the influence (DUI).
It goes without saying that riding a bike while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a bad idea. Some people think this is safer than driving a motor vehicle while impaired; others mistakenly assume they won’t face serious charges if they’re on a bicycle.
The truth, however, is drunk riding and drunk driving carry many of the same consequences. If you are arrested for riding under the influence, you could face a $250 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension. If you have not yet obtained your license, your privilege to drive will be delayed by one year.
2. Your bicycle must be equipped with a lamp and reflectors when riding at night.
Pursuant to CVC Section 21201, any bicycle that is ridden “during darkness” on a sidewalk, bikeway, or highway must be equipped with:
- A white lamp that illuminates the road while the bike is in motion and is visible at least 300 feet from the bicycle on either side and in front;
- A yellow or white reflector on each pedal, ankle, or shoe that can be seen from the rear and front of the bicycle from 200 feet; and
- A red reflector fitted on the rear of the bike that can be seen from 500 feet when in front of a motor vehicle’s headlights.
It is unlawful to fit your bike with a flashing blue warning light because you may be confused for a police officer.
3. Tires and bicycles that are sold or traded must have certain features.
Reflectorized or reflex-reflector bicycle tires can only be sold or traded in California if they meet the requirements established by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Also, new bicycles cannot be sold unless they have the required red reflector and white or yellow reflector, except when they have reflectorized tires on the rear and front.
4. In most situations, you must ride your bicycle “as close as practicable” to the right-hand curb or edge of the road.
Pursuant to CVC Section 21202, when riding in the same direction as traffic and moving the same speed as traffic, you are permitted to ride in the motor-vehicle lane; however, if you are moving slower than traffic, you must stay as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. The only exceptions to this rule are:
- When you are passing or overtaking a vehicle or bicycle traveling in the same direction;
- When you are approaching a right turn;
- When you need to avoid an obstacle such as a surface hazard, animal, or pedestrian; and
- When you are about to make a left turn at an intersection or onto a driveway or private road.
5. It’s illegal to “hitch a ride” on a motor vehicle.
If you’re ever tempted to push your limits by holding onto a motor vehicle while riding, bear in mind that this could land you a citation. The California Vehicle Code makes it illegal to “hitch a ride” on a vehicle or streetcar while riding a bike, roller skates, and other modes of transport.
6. Motorized bicycles are not permitted everywhere a regular bicycle can go.
Motorized bikes tend to have much faster acceleration than pedal-powered bicycles, and they are often able to reach higher speeds. That means it’s not always safe for the two to share the same path. Motorized bikes are not permitted on bicycle trails, bikeways, equestrian trails, hiking trails, or designated bicycle lanes unless they are adjacent to or within a roadway, or unless such operation is authorized via ordinance by the relevant governing body or local authority.
7. In most situations, when a bicycle lane is available, riders must use that lane rather than riding in traffic.
Designated bicycle lanes have become a common sight throughout California. If you are riding slower than the speed of traffic and a bicycle lane is available, you are required to use it unless:
- You are preparing to take a left turn at a driveway, private road, or intersection;
- You have to leave the lane to avoid debris or another obstacle;
- You are approaching a right turn; or
- You are overtaking a pedestrian, vehicle, or bicycle.
8. All riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet.
California law requires all minors to wear a helmet if they are riding a bicycle. The helmet must meet the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Society for Testing and Materials, or standards that were established by those authorities. Furthermore, any bicycle helmet that is sold or offered for sale must have a clear label stating its accordance with the applicable safety standards.
Tips for Avoiding Bicycle Accidents
Even if you follow all the regulations listed above, there’s still a chance you will wind up in a serious accident. After all, you cannot rely on other cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers to behave responsibly.
Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce your risk of being involved in a bicycle crash. Some of the more effective strategies include:
- Maximize your visibility by wearing a brightly colored or reflective vest;
- Make sure your brakes are working and tires are properly inflated before you hit the road;
- Always assume drivers have not seen you;
- Make eye contact with drivers before proceeding in front of their vehicle; and
- Get your bike professionally serviced at least once per year.
Of course, even the most diligent riders could wind up in accidents with drunk, distracted, or careless motorists. The injuries sustained in these crashes tend to be severe because cyclists have little protection from the force of impact; however, if another person’s negligence is to blame, you may be entitled to compensation for healthcare bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Long Beach Bicycle Accident Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
After a serious bicycle accident, the smartest step you can take to protect your rights is to consult a seasoned personal injury lawyer. Attorney Michael D. Waks can assess your case for free and help you make the right decisions regarding your claim.
Michael Waks has more than 30 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and litigating personal injury and wrongful death cases in Southern California. He holds an AV-preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell and has recovered millions of dollars for his clients.
If you cannot come to our office, Michael will come to you. For a free consultation with a Long Beach bicycle accident lawyer, call us today at (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to reach us online.
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