When it comes to riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in California, there’s no uniformity of law at all. However, as a general rule of thumb, riding on the sidewalk is not allowed in most cities, but people do it anyways for safety reasons.
It turned into a confusing mess when the California legislature delegated the authority enact sidewalk ordinances to the various counties and municipalities. How much of a confusing mess is it?
A Spaghetti Mess
In Venice, you can ride a bike on a sidewalk, but pedestrians have the right of way.
Riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in Santa Monica is prohibited.
In Beverly Hills and Culver City, bicycles are allowed on sidewalks so long as they’re not in a business area. How is a bicyclist supposed to know what area might constitute a business area? Some are obvious while others might not be. Is the cyclist supposed to carry a zoning map?
In West Hollywood, if there’s no bicycle lane, bicyclists can use the sidewalk, but if there’s a bike lane, they’re required to use that. If there’s no bike lane and they ride on the road, they’re required to travel with the flow of traffic.
In Davis the bicyclist can’t ride on the sidewalk, but he or she can cross it in order to enter or leave a premises abutting it. Regardless of being prohibited from riding on a sidewalk, if the bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk, he or she must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and use an audible signal when overtaking and passing the pedestrian.
Santa Rosa allows bicycles on sidewalks except for shopping areas, the downtown core or Railroad Square.
In San Francisco, a bicyclist under the age of 13 can ride on a sidewalk, but they’re required to ride in the streets with traffic if they’re more than 13 years of age. A 13-year-old is nowhere near being eligible for a driver’s license, but he or she is supposed to be required to obey all state and local traffic laws.
In Palo Alto, riders are supposed to obey ordinance 10.64.130, which states (a) No person shall ride or operate a bicycle upon any sidewalk in a business district, any sidewalk in or on any pedestrian underpass or overpass, or any sidewalk on the Embarcadero Road Overpass across Bayshore Freeway unless such sidewalk is officially designated as a bicycle route. – (b) Any person riding or operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk shall exercise due care and shall yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians. – (c) No person riding or operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk where a bicycle lane or path has been established shall travel in a direction other than as posted.
Bay area cyclists in Oakland and Berkeley aren’t supposed to ride on sidewalks but often do in an effort to avoid roads which are no bicycle safe. Bay Area Bicycle Law in Oakland points out that cycilists face “obstructed bike lanes, poorly maintained or heavily worn roads with potholes, drivers with road rage, drivers not looking before turning, and dooring”. They also point out in Sacramento, Uber and Lyft have caused an uptick in dooring accidents when passengers open their doors when a cyclist is coming through.
Why wouldn’t the use the sidwalk?
Uniformity in the Bike Lane Exception
Although the various municipalities are inconsistent on the legality of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, the one thing that they agree on is that the bicyclist has the right-of-way when he or she is in a designated bicycle lane. Motorists simply aren’t permitted to travel in those lanes.
Do you ride on the sidewalk?
If so, please let us know which city you’re in and why you ride on the sidewlak.