Bikes on Sidewalks

posted in: Bicycles, California Law |

Can an adult bicyclist legally ride on the sidewalk? It’s a simple question that should have a simple answer. Unfortunately that’s not the case. The general rule for a bicycle in California is that a bicycle must obey the same rules as an auto. A bike is essentially a slow moving car. If you are riding a bike in general you should be in the street traveling the same direction as traffic. Because you generally are moving slower than traffic you should be as far to the right side of the road as possible, (CVC 21650.1). If there is a bike lane, designated by a white painted line the bicyclist has complete control of that lane until the white painted line becomes a broken painted line. At that point a car can, if safe, move over the line in preparation for a turn.

The problem with the above arises when cities create ‘local ordinances’ that make changes to the California Vehicle Code. In the City of Santa Cruz, for example, a local ordinance, (10.68.030), prohibits bikes on the sidewalks “fronting and adjacent to commercial establishments, stores or buildings used for business or commercial purposes.” It goes on to state that riding on sidewalk “where permitted” must yield to pedestrians. The City of Capitola prohibits bikes on all sidewalks.

So what’s a bicyclist to do? My advice is to follow the California law. Although local ordinances may allow bikes to ride on sidewalks, these ordinances are essentially ‘overriding’, (pun intended), state law, which is prohibited. Remember, when riding a bike you have rights but those rights don’t protect you from a negligent driver. And getting hit by a car, even if you are legally correct, hurts.