California Vehicle Code Section 21650.1—Bicycle on a Roadway
California Vehicle Code Section 21650.1 is very explicit about how bicycles are to be ridden on roadways:
“A bicycle operated on a roadway, or on the shoulder of a highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven on the roadway.”
Despite being distinctly different from cars, bicycles are considered motor vehicles and are subject to many of the same laws as regular motorists. These include, but are not limited to, failing to stop at stop signs or red light, DUIs and riding on the wrong side of the roadway as required by CVC 21650.1.
Bicyclists Need to Obey Traffic Laws
Bicycles are ubiquitous in our cities and towns because they provide easy and inexpensive transportation as well as health and fitness. As a bicyclist, however, you do have to obey the traffic laws.
While many riders would prefer to ride against traffic so that they can observe approaching traffic, the law requires you to ride in the same direction whether you are on the roadway or on the shoulder. Further, if there is a bike lane present, use it or a police officer could consider you to be impeding traffic.
Defenses to CVC 21650.1
There are defenses to an alleged violation of CVC 21650.1. While you could try to fight a traffic ticket on your own, it is always best to have a traffic ticket expert helping you to be sure your argument is heard/considered by the court and that any objections to certain evidence be brought forward.
You Were Riding on the Sidewalk
Sidewalks are not considered part of the roadway under CVC Section 555. A roadway is defined under CVC Section 530 as “a portion of highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic.”
Sidewalks are defined under CVC Section as “a portion of highway, other than roadway, set apart by curbs, barriers, markings or other delineation for pedestrian travel.”
Accordingly, you cannot be cited for riding on the wrong side, or the side opposing traffic, while on the sidewalk unless there is a city ordinance prohibiting bicycle riding on sidewalks. In the absence of an ordinance, you may ride in either direction you wish on the sidewalk.
You should be aware, however, of signs that prohibit riding on sidewalks or be aware of local ordinances that also prohibit the practice.
Most city ordinances that allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks require that you give the right-of-way to pedestrians and that you warn them of your approach. You should also ride slowly and cautiously. Some ordinances may also require bicyclists to ride in the same direction as pedestrians or on the right side of the sidewalk.
If you were riding at a fast speed or failed to warn a pedestrian that you were behind them and you collided with the individual, you will likely be held liable both criminally and civilly.
You Were Riding in a Crosswalk
It is probably not a good or safe idea to ride a bicycle in a crosswalk since they are primarily intended for pedestrians. There is also some controversy over whether you can legally ride your bike in a crosswalk.
Under CVC Section 21200(a) and other code sections, bicycles have the same rights and obligations of other motorists. Since a car cannot be in crosswalk unless driving through it, why should a bicycle?
Crosswalks are defined under CVC Section 555 as “that portion of a roadway within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at the intersection.” Some would argue that a crosswalk is either part of the roadway or that specific code sections prohibit riding in a crosswalk.
There is no specific prohibition against riding your bicycle in a crosswalk so if you are cited for doing so under CVC 21650.1, your charges should be dismissed. However, you are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians under CVC Section 21950(a). So in the interest of safety, you should walk your bike in a crosswalk since impeding pedestrians could subject you to a ticket under this particular code section.
As with sidewalks, however, local ordinances may prohibit you from doing so. Unless there is an ordinance preventing it, you are not in violation of CVC 21650.1 or any other California traffic code sections under CVC Section 275.
For example, Los Angeles has an ordinance, LA Muni Code 56.15(1), whereby you may not ride on a walkway or sidewalk, and presumably a crosswalk, in a “…willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” If you rode slowly in the crosswalk and took care to avoid pedestrians but may have impeded someone, that may not rise to the level of willful or wanton disregard for safety.
Though these are examples of some caveats of the law, each situation is individually based and your particular situation is important. If you received a violation for improperly riding your bike on the roadway, give our team a call to discuss your option or submit your citation for review.
The fine for violating CVC 21650.1 starts at $196.