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Bicycles: rules and risks

Bicycles seem to dominate our city roadways and suburban bike trails. Yet cyclists often face specific challenges.

Learning about your rights and risks as a cyclist in California can keep you safe and informed about cycling laws and unique dangerous situations.

California bicycle laws

California law provides that bicyclists have the rights and responsibilities that apply to drivers of vehicles. Bicycle statutes include:

  • Bicycle road usage laws which define and restrict cyclists’ use of bicycle lanes, freeways and sidewalks
  • Bicycle equipment regulations that require proper safety conditions such as brakes, handlebars, lights, bicycle size, reflectors and seats
  • Cycling operation rules which regulate the use of helmets, alcohol, headphones, and cell phones, as well as address other safety requirements such as pedestrian safety and parking

Dangerous or preventable conditions

Although California laws address numerous cycling safety issues regarding motor vehicles, bicyclists may encounter many other preventable dangerous situations, including:

  • Crashes involving dogs
  • Collisions caused by other cyclists
  • Being hit by a vehicle or another cyclist while walking your bike
  • Inattentive walkers or runners on bike paths

A bicycle accident can inflict serious and long-term consequences. Injuries caused by a preventable condition may entitle you to recover compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages and income
  • Property damage
  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Physical impairment
  • Emotional distress

Cyclists and motor vehicles share the roads’ rights, risks and dangers. Understanding and exercising your responsibilities as a cyclist can enable you to advocate for bicycle safety, not only for yourself but for your cycling community.