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California bicycle laws: Where can you legally ride?

Bicyclists should follow all the rules of the road in California along with some additional rules that apply specifically to cyclists. Under the letter of the law, it actually doesn't matter where a bicyclist rides as long as he or she is traveling as quickly as surrounding traffic and following other rules that pertain to vehicles.

As for bicyclists who are traveling slower than surrounding vehicles, it's important that they travel along the right-hand side of the roadway. In most cases, since bikes ride slower than other traffic, they should ride in bike lanes when they are available. The exception is when cyclists are passing, avoiding obstacles, getting ready to make a left turn or in cases where the roadway doesn't have enough space to share.

As referenced above, there are certain instances in which bicyclists have every right to "take the lane" and it's important for drivers to yield to them in these situations. In fact, motorists should yield to cyclists in all circumstances due to the risk of injuries that a bicyclist could suffer should a car strike him or her. However, if the motorist was following the law, if the bicyclist was clearly in error and there was no opportunity to avoid a collision, the motorist will probably not be at fault.

It's important to note that bicyclists cannot travel on expressways or freeways. The California Department of Transportation prohibits pedal-powered vehicles from traveling on these high-speed roadways.

Following the rules of the road is one of the best ways for bicycle riders to ensure that they don't get a ticket and that -- should an injurious accident happen -- they will have a better chance of being on the right side of the law in terms of pursuing a personal injury action.

Source: California Bicycle Coalition, "California Bicycle Laws," accessed April 11, 2018

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