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California Bike Lane Laws and Their Impact on Liability

By Hess & Nghiem on December 29, 2023

Bicycling is a popular and eco-friendly mode of transportation in California. Cycling comes with its own set of rules and regulations for the safety of bike riders and others on the streets and roadways. Understanding California’s bike lane laws is crucial, not just for cyclists but also for drivers who are sharing the road.

California law recognizes the right of cyclists to share the road with motor vehicles. Bicycles are considered vehicles under the law, and cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles, as stated in California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21200 (a)(1).

California Bicycle Transportation Act

Specifically, SHC Section 890.4 is part of the California Bicycle Transportation Act, and it categorizes and defines different types of facilities designed for bicycle travel, collectively referred to as “bikeways.” The section outlines the following categories of bikeways:

  • Class I bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths): Completely separated paths exclusively designated for bicycles and pedestrians
  • Class II bikeways (bike lanes): Restricted lanes designated for the exclusive or semi-exclusive use of bicycles
  • Class III bikeways (bike routes): On-street or off-street bikeways designated by signs or permanent markings shared with pedestrians and motorists
  • Class IV bikeways (cycle tracks or separated bikeways): Dedicated right-of-way exclusively for bicycle travel adjacent to a roadway, separated from vehicular traffic

The section provides clear definitions for these categories and emphasizes the promotion of bicycle travel while ensuring safety. It serves as a regulatory framework for the planning and development of bikeways in California, with the goal of creating a safer and more organized environment for cyclists.

Riding on the Right Side (CVC Section 21202)

According to California Vehicle Code Section 21202, cyclists are required to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. However, exceptions are made for situations such as overtaking another bicycle or vehicle, preparing for a left turn, avoiding hazardous conditions, or approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

Additionally, when riding on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes, cyclists may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of the roadway as practicable.

Operation in Bicycle Lanes (CVC Section 21208)

California law, as outlined in Section 21208, mandates that when a bicycle lane is established on a roadway, cyclists generally ride within the bicycle lane if their speed is less than the normal speed of traffic in the same direction.

However, cyclists are allowed to leave the bicycle lane under certain situations, including:

  • When a cyclist is overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane or when such entities are about to enter the lane and passing is not possible within the lane
  • When the cyclist prepares for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway
  • When a cyclist needs to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions
  • When a cyclist approaches a place where a right turn is authorized

Importantly, cyclists can only leave the bicycle lane if it can be done with reasonable safety. When leaving the bicycle lane, cyclists must give an appropriate signal as outlined in Chapter 6 of the Vehicle Code, ensuring that other vehicles may be aware of the intended movement.

Importance of Driver Responsibility

Drivers play a critical role in ensuring the safety of cyclists. It is paramount for drivers to be aware of bike lanes, respect cyclists’ right to use them, and exercise caution when interacting with cyclists on the road. Failure to adhere to bike lane laws can lead to accidents and potential liability for any injuries involved.

Accidents and Liability

Accidents involving cyclists often occur when drivers fail to adhere to bike lane laws. If a driver violates these laws and causes an accident, they are likely to be held liable for the damages and injuries sustained by the cyclist. Liability is determined by assessing factors such as the driver’s negligence, failure to yield, or failure to exercise reasonable care.

An experienced Santa Ana bicycle accident lawyer can thoroughly investigate the accident to establish who is responsible for your injuries and negotiate with the involved parties on your behalf, such as other attorneys or insurance companies. You may be entitled to claim damages, including medical expenses, missed time from work, and property damage, and your attorney can calculate the full extent of your damages so that you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve.

Start the Path to Justice with HN Injury Lawyers

By following the rules of the road and exercising caution, cyclists and drivers can contribute to a safer and more harmonious coexistence on Santa Ana streets. Even so, accidents still happen and pose a big threat to vulnerable cyclists.

If you were injured due to a negligent driver while cycling in Santa Ana, contact HN Injury Lawyers for an unwavering legal ally. We are standing by to explore your legal options and help you get the resources you need.

Call us at (657) 333-5726 today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Posted in: Bicycle Accident