3. CA Bicycle Laws and Personal Bike Safety–Tips for Kids and Adults
This section of the Tips for Bicycling Monterey County guide is useful for people who bike in all parts of California, and elsewhere. And it includes bike laws and safety tips specific to biking in Monterey County! Contact Mari with any questions.
This section is divided into 29 bike law and safety topics, as listed below.
Help others find these resources:
- Share bike laws summary flier – “Be Cool, Be Safe” or other posters, fliers, or web links that direct people to this site.
- On Twitter, copy and tweet the following: CA Bicycle Laws and Personal Bike Safety–Tips for Kids and Adults | Bicycling Monterey http://marilynch.com/blog/tips-for-tourists/personal-safety via @BikeMonterey
- On Facebook, copy and post on your wall the following: CA Bicycle Laws and Personal Bike Safety–Tips for Kids and Adults | Bicycling Monterey http://marilynch.com/blog/tips-for-tourists/personal-safety via BicyclingMonterey.com
- Note: Although the original URL includes “tips-for-tourists,” this info is for local residents as well as tourists/visitors.
- All other sharing: Respect copyright (click for details).
- Find info of value on this site? Donations appreciated.
Special thanks to Cath Tendler-Valencia for her support of bike safety outreach.
Below you’ll find:
California Bicycle Laws
Cell phones and texting–rules for minors and adults
How to avoid getting hit–including collection of videos (plus much related info below)
Local certified safety instructor
What’s the scoop on helmets?
Consider high-visibility apparel and accessories
Use hand signals (and teach your children)
Riding on roadways: How to make those turns, taking the lane, and more–including “Why do you ride like that?”
Intersections: Eye contact and proper lane usage
Bells and horns
Share the multi-use trail–for harmony and safety / share-the-trail etiquette
Keep hands free for steering and signaling
It’s the law: Keep one ear unplugged
Weather tips: Changing seasons on the Central Coast
Alcohol and bicycle safety
Biking at night
Sidewalks: Safety, teaching children, and cities’ regulations
Children and teens
Stay legal on the street, including
- Single file or side-by-side?
- Required equipment
- Proper lane usage
Avoiding the door zone
What about freeways and bridges?
Red Cross first aid tips for smartphone users
Taking responsibility for personal safety
What about e-bikes and other non people-powered bikes?
Local, state, and national resources: Help improve infrastructure for safer bicycling
Links to DMV Vehicle Code regarding bicycles
How to find tips quickly
Use your browser’s find window to locate all references to a particular topic on this web page. For example, find “lane” for tips on how to “take the lane,” proper lane usage, right-turn lane, left-turn lane, and more.
Feel free to contact me for help.
Got kids? Be sure to see the age-specific recommendations and other tips under the “Children and teens” header below.
Need Spanish resources?
Mas información en español? Click here. You’ll find links to many Spanish-language bicycling safety and other resources.
Short of time?
Taking time to review safety tips, and to teach the children you bike with, may save you a lot of time–time recuperating from an accident. Scroll down this entire page and read all headlines, stopping to read through those topics you may not be knowledgeable about.
Then go have fun on the bikeways!
Gently offer to teach others out on the bikeways
As appropriate, and in a kind manner, you might offer to teach others who are just learning California/CA bike laws. Some people may have come from another state or country where the laws are different. Example: Unlike CA, in some states, the law is that bicyclists and pedestrians are both to travel against motor vehicle traffic. (In CA, bicyclists are to travel with the flow of motor vehicles, although pedestrians are to travel against the flow.)
And even within CA, local ordinances may vary. For example, see “Be alert for local signs” under “Share the multi-use trail” below.
1. California Bicycle Laws
Click here for examples of how Monterey County law enforcement is backing you up in biking safely!
Besides Bicycling Monterey’s Bike Laws Summary Flier – “Be Cool, Be Safe,” here are some CA bike law summaries from two bicycle coalitions. (And below those, get the full scoop from the California DMV.)
- ”Sharing the Road” from the California Bicycling Coalition website includes CA bike law links.
- The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition created the handy graphic reminder below. Note these clarifications: (1) Refer to Bicycling Monterey’s sidewalk riding info below. (2) Only reflectors and a front light are required by law. However, a rear light is recommended.
The Full Scoop on California Bicycle Laws: California DMV
The DMV added a Cyclist Safety webpage to its resources.
- Although bicycles aren’t motor vehicles, bike laws are shared via the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
- The DMV website includes a Fast Facts page, “Sharing the Road (FFDL 37) – Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Motorists.” (Spanish speakers: That DMV page is also available in Spanish.)
- The DMV’s California Driver Handbook on Sharing the Road includes a section on bicycles; click here. (Spanish speakers:
That DMV page is also available in Spanish.)
- For links to all Vehicle Code sections, click here–or for ease of referral, see bottom of this web page for an excerpt from the DMV website. Vehicle Code sections include such things a “Operation on Roadways,” about proper lane usage, “Equipment Requirements” for night riding and more. Clarification on some of these topics will be found on this Bicycling Monterey web page. (Spanish speakers: Lo siento. As of 20 May 2013, these DMV links lead to “Disponible sólo en inglés” message. However, Bicycling Monterey’s en español page includes Spanish-language bike resources too, including a summary of laws for California bicyclists that include the DMV’s “Equipment Requirements.” You may download it here also:
California Highway Patrol
The CHP provides a “Bicycle Riding” pamphlet, in English and Spanish, that covers common causes of bicycle accidents, theft precautions, the laws, bicycle registration, equipment requirements, safety tips.
Click here for the CHP web page, where you can download the most current versions (often more current than local CHP offices may have on hand).
For more discussion of CA bike laws
Use your browser’s “find” window to search for “law” on this web page.
This little girl knows that at Sports Center Bicycles, Seaside, she can often find a Spanish-speaking employee who will help her keep her bike running safely. For other Monterey County bike shops with Spanish speakers, see Bicycling Monterey’s en español page.
2. Cell phones and texting
Distracted driving/biking laws are highlighted, with accompanying photos and video, on the Bicycling Monterey site; click here. Hand-held phones for all, texting for all, and cell phones for minors are all prohibited in CA while driving or biking.
Just as people on bikes want drivers and pedestrians to get off their mobile phones and pay attention, the same need holds true for people on bikes: Please, hang up and bike!
3. How to avoid getting hit
Unfortunately, just knowing and following the law isn’t enough to ensure your safety.
For visual demonstrations of right-hooks, left-hooks, problems with sidewalk riding, and more, see I Am Traffic’s video collection. (Thanks to People Power of Santa Cruz for bringing those to my attention.)
Excellent teaching materials are available from Commute Orlando, thanks in large part to the work of Keri Caffrey. See their Smart Moves. (Thank you to Fred Oswald, a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor from Ohio, for alerting me to Commute Orlando’s work.)
John S. Allen’s book Bicycling Street Smarts: Riding Confidently, Legally, and Safely has been adapted for various locations, and there is a California edition.
Truck alongside bike lane on Camino Aguajito at Fremont,
near Monterey Peninsula College
4. Local certified safety instructor
You’ll find comprehensive safety info on the League of American Bicyclists website. (For California-specific info, also refer to Bike Safe California (bikesafecalifornia.org), a project of the California Bicycle Coalition. Bike Safe CA also lists these additional bike safety resources.)
Here in Monterey County, we have a Bike League-certified instructor, Frank Henderson, included on our local resources page. (Thinking of organizing a bike rodeo/bike skills and safety event? Click here.)
Bike Safety video: Watch an approximately 15-minute video presentation with Frank Henderson. Frank is being interviewed by Transportation Agency of Monterey County’s Executive Director Debbie Hale; click here, then slide over to about 41:00 minutes.
5. What’s the scoop on helmets?
Because of the name of the Bicycling Monterey project HER Helmet Thursdays, people may think this site promotes helmet use. However, HER Helmet Thursdays is not about wearing a helmet. People have strong feelings about helmet use, pro and con. Bicycling Monterey does share related local stories, to help give people more info on which to base their personal decisions; click here for an example.
This 2-year-old cowboy, Francisco Dorantes, had his eye on the sea lions below Fisherman’s Wharf. Dad told him, “You can sit on that bike, Cowboy, but you have to swap that hat for your bike helmet before you can ride! That’s the law here in the Wild West.”
To avoid a ticket, children/teens under age eighteen must wear an approved helmet while bicycling, per California law; refer to VC 21212 on the DMV website.
Here’s a link for “Como Ponerse el Casco de Bicicleta y Hacerlo Bien” en español, and “Fitting a Bicycle Helmet Right” in English. [Note: While this indicates one finger under the chin strap, two fingers is sometimes recommended instead. This is happy news to those people who really don't like tight straps--and if pressured to do one-finger tightness, would be tempted not to buckle their strap, or to unbuckle it while riding.] Pictorial guide.
Teach children to take off their helmet immediately when they get off their bike. Helmets are not intended for–and may even be unsafe for–other activities. Click here for a warning from the U.S. Scouting Service.
The law requires minors to wear a helmet.
Sure, the little guys must wear helmets, by law. But many of the big guys choose to wear them too, including…
Jess Martines, founder of the fixed-gear ride group F.N.B.
6. Consider high-visibility apparel
In an ideal world, bike infrastructure is perfect, and all drivers are aware of and extra cautious around people on bikes. Since the world isn’t ideal, it can’t hurt–and may help–to use high-visibility apparel and accessories at times you deem appropriate.
Two of the most important things you can do to stay safe on your bike: be visible and predictable.
So, what about being visible? Especially when leaving off-road bike paths to share a road with cars, consider dressing to be highly visible. (Nah, that doesn’t mean showing skin.)
If you don’t have some type of neon/brightly colored shirt or jacket, you may want to purchase brightly colored biking apparel or a reflective sash that can be worn over any clothing. Even on a bright, sunny day, simply passing under the shade of trees can often make a person on a bike nearly invisible to cars. If you ride bent over, sitting upright if you hear a car approaching will make your high-visibility apparel more noticeable to that driver.
Remember other safety gear, as appropriate, such as lights; see “Biking in the Dark” section.
Refer to the “More Bike Safety Gear: High Visibility” section of this guide. There, and on the “Bike Shops in Monterey County” page, you’ll find links to Monterey Bay locations where you can purchase such items.
Susan Ragsdale-Cronin and daughters Dharma Maria (in trailer) and Tara can be seen biking all over the Monterey Peninsula.
7. Use hand signals (and teach your children)
Be predictable. Here’s one example: Ever feel annoyed by motorists who fail to use their turn signals and just cut in front of you? The same etiquette applies to bicycling (and bike laws require signaling; see VC 22111). Please use hand signals to let others know when you’ll be turning.
Remember your “brake lights” too–hand signals to indicate slowing or stopping.
Here are two related links from other sites. The first is a refresher course, with images, on the most used hand signals, and the second describes hand signals and their use (note images at bottom). Yes, there are some variations in approaches to hand signaling; don’t worry about that, just do your best to clearly indicate your intentions.
8. Operation on roadways: How to make turns, taking the lane, and more
Teach your children to exercise wise judgment about the best way to make turns.
- Especially for children, it is often safer to hop off the bike and make that turn as a pedestrian: Walk your bike through the crosswalk.
- “Same roads, same rules, same rights,” and a bicycle does have the right to make a left-hand turn from the left-turn lane of the road, just as a car does. Do it safely!
Although I bike, I drive too. And I’ve been at the wheel of a car when an adult on a bike not only failed to signal their intention to turn, but also came from the right-hand lane and suddenly biked in front of me to make a left turn. Stories like these are a sober reminder to all of us.
Have 20 seconds--that might even save your life? Watch Ecology Action’s video on making a left-hand turn safely. (For right turns, see “Intersections” heading below.)
The same page also includes a 33-second video on how to “take the lane” when it isn’t safe for a car and a bike to be side-by-side.
Here’s an excellent animation, shared by Megan Tolbert, Transportation Planner for CSUMB TripWise:
Some people ask about the safety of riding a bike in the travel lane (where cars travel, versus a bicycle lane). Motorists want to know how to pass bicyclists safely. This interactive animation is enlightening for both cyclists and motorists. Keep clicking “continue” until you come to “See the Savvy Cyclist Ride,” and check that out too. http://commuteorlando.com/
Why do you ride like that?
Another excellent resource about lane usage comes from the Florida Bicycle Association’s CyclingSavvy web page, “Why do you ride like that?” http://cyclingsavvy.org/hows-my-driving/ The info about FL law requiring bicyclists to ride “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway,” including the law’s many exceptions to this rule, apply to CA law as well. Thanks to Bob Shanteau of Velo Club Monterey for sharing that resource.
It’s tempting, but don’t!
When biking on a road with many cars, it’s tempting to “take a break” when there is length of space between parked cars, and to bike there–in the parking lane–until you reach a parked car and must move back into the travel lane. Unless the parked cars are very far apart, such weaving in and out of traffic is a bad idea.
Why? Drivers may not see you when you are ready to go back into the travel lane.
Bob also passes along this 43-second video from Team CyclingSavvy that demonstrates communication and effective lane change for bicyclists on a group ride. <https://vimeo.
9. Intersections: Eye contact and proper lane usage
When crossing straight through an intersection, or when making either a right or left-hand turn, make eye contact with nearby drivers whenever possible. Be a safe, predictable bicyclist by hand signaling and by following the California laws regarding proper lane usage for bicyclists.
If not comfortable following those laws, then hop off your bike and be a pedestrian; use the crosswalk at an intersection. As mentioned above, this is wise for children; and at busy intersections, it is often the best approach for adults too.
Be especially cautious that you are not to the right of a car that is making a right-hand turn when you are going straight. Refer to “Collision Type #5: The Red Light of Death” in the aforementioned “How not to get hit by cars” at BikeSafe.com for tips about this.
Also see “Making right turns in the presence of bicyclists” in Street Smarts Santa Cruz.
Use of bike mirrors is far from a unanimous practice. Many riders don’t use one until they are hit by a car–or nearly are. While not required by law as with a car, a bicycle having a rear-view mirror makes just as much sense.
We’re learning all the time, and I learned from Frank Henderson at a session of our Monterey County Youth Center bike repair and safety class where Frank got the neat mirror he has on his road bike: from CycleAware, a business based in Pacific Grove.
11. Bells and horns
“Same road, same rules, same rights.” That includes the California DMV rule that states “Do not honk your horn unless it is a safety warning to avoid a collision.”
That’s right, as the law requires, please reserve use of a bicycle horn on roads as an alert for those times when safety truly demands it! Having a horn equipped on your bike is a good idea, if used judiciously/legally. But safe biking practices–including proper lane usage, hand-signaling, and making eye contact with drivers–will do far more good than blasting a horn.
Besides, chances are a careless driver may have music, etc. up too loud to hear a bike horn anyway. If bike horns sounded like car horns, perhaps more attention would be paid.
For those occasions when judicious use of a horn is in order, to avoid a collision, check out the Loud Bicycle horn. It is engineered to get a driver’s attention, because it sounds just like a car horn. Here’s what Loud Bicycle has to say: “Drivers react to car horns before they even know where the sound is coming from. A driver that gets beeped at while backing out of a driveway for example, will immediately brake. These kinds of reflexive reactions are perfect to keep cyclists safe.” Click here to go to the LoudBicycle.com website, where you may order their horn.
Horns/bells on multi-use trails
You may wish you had–or maybe you do have–a loud horn to blast the ears of someone stepping (or biking) in your way on the multi-use trail. Infrequently, safety may dictate using a bell or horn on the trail to avoid a collision. However, in most cases, it’s appropriate to restrain yourself; resist the temptation to use the bell/horn to chastise an errant traveler. (Read more about share-the-trail harmony below.)
An old-style bicycle horn with a friendly sound has been part of my bike equipment. It’s fun for little kids to squeeze that horn when I stop to chat with them and their parents. Rarely do I use even my soft, friendly horn on the trail as an alert. I prefer to be extra cautious around others. As appropriate, I call out to them in a friendly voice, in advance, “Passing on your left.”
Some people on bikes ring bells/horns frequently on the multi-use trail. Often this is well-intentioned, perhaps even appropriate (especially since many international visitors may understand a bell better than words called out in English). Ringing a bell/horn is in fact suggested by the City of Monterey as an option (along with slowing your speed) when passing. (More on that below.)
About calling out
A minority of people on bikes race along the trail and yell indignantly at others, “On your left!” (From their tone of voice, you can hear the added word, “Stupid!” whether they include that word or not.)
Please be kind. Understand that your words may not be understood in the moment by all trail users. Why? Of course, there are many international visitors who do not understand English. There are also other visitors unfamiliar with shared trails. They truly don’t know what you mean. Really.
Slowing down is more effective. And using a friendly tone of voice helps create a more harmonious vibe, and invites cooperation, on the multi-use trail.
12. Share the multi-use trail–for harmony and safety
The multi-use trail (often referred to as “the bike path”), is meant to be shared. For the safety and pleasure of all, this requires everyone to “play nice.” So, what is necessary to know about share-the-trail etiquette?
Click here for an overview on the City of Monterey’s website. Once there, you’ll see “Remember these guidelines” under “Rules for Coastal Trail Users”–click on the down arrow to expand the page for details. Questions not answered there? Contact me.
Be alert for local signs
You’ve probably heard the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Guidelines for multi-use trails not only vary around the nation and world but even within California. Stay alert for local signage! Keep in mind that, to avoid vandalism, many signs are not at eye level. Look up higher, so you don’t miss the signs.
In the photo below, a Monterey sign tells pedestrians to keep to the right. Visitors may have just come from, for example, Roseville, California, where pedestrians were told to keep to the left. It makes sense that people may be confused! Show extra patience and courtesy to others. Please slow down, be kind, and avoid an accident.
- Bicyclists, ride slow near pedestrians and all others. Save race training or other fast riding for wide, open areas. City of Monterey requests trail users ride single file; and, in advance when passing, call out or signal with bell or horn. (See more about bells/horns just above, on this Bicycling Monterey web page.)
- Pedestrians, keep to the right, and stay alert. Avoid unnecessarily slowing or stopping the travel of people on bikes and others. Pay special attention to keeping young children or pets from causing or being the victim of trauma, injury, or death. (Also, want to help children get familiar with various bike signs? See “Signs of a Bicycling Friendly Monterey County” for starters.)
When there is a third lane…
Some sections of the multi-use path have not just two lanes, they also have a third lane. That third lane is a separate lane assigned for pedestrians. It may be a dirt/gravel lane, as in Pacific Grove, or an asphalt lane, as with the wonderful “bike freeway/bike heaven” path along Fort Ord Dunes State Park. When there is a third lane, whether you are biking or walking, please stay in the lane that’s assigned for you.
But I want to bike fast!
Do you like to fly along the trail? Please see “Outta my way” header at end of the “Serious Cyclists” section.
Be mindful of pedestrians, businesses entrances, and more in the City of Monterey plazas and similar areas throughout the county too. (And see sidewalk section of this web page for related tips.)
What about e-bikes and such?
Electric bikes? Other non people-powered bikes? See section 27 below.
13. Keep hands free for steering and signaling
California law (VC 21205) states, “No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the operator from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.”
For safety’s sake, two free hands are even better!
When you’re out shopping by bike, remember that you may suddenly find yourself loaded down with awkward packages. While it’s great to shop by bike, it usually requires bringing along something to help carry your packages.
A simple, inexpensive day pack can be all it takes to ensure your hands are free.
There are lots of other options too, such as, a small pouch that fastens to your bike, panniers, or other cargo holders. Ask our local bike shops for their favorite methods and equipment.
Consider a trailer or cargo bike if you carry a lot of things, or have a young child or two along with you. See Biking by the Bay, Cargo-Style.
If you’re like this guy, and me, it’s easy to think of another stop you want to make on the way home–when you didn’t think you needed to bring a day pack, or other cargo holder, on this ride.
Being loaded down after unanticipated errands may not seem too bad on the bike path, but it may indeed be dangerous. See “Spoke hazards” below.
When it’s necessary to venture out onto a road with cars, that’s another matter! Wherever hand signaling and sudden steering may be required, having hands free is essential.
And the solution need not be expensive.
14. Another handy reminder–gloves
How do bike gloves add to safer bicycling? They give you better grip on the handlebars, absorb shock and vibration, and prevent numbness on long rides.
Of course, they also protect your hands in a spill. One morning after the first rain of the season, I biked down my lane at a fast clip. I’d neglected to wear my gloves, and I forgot there would be loose silt at the bottom of the hill after first rain. Ouch! I took a tumble, and my hands bore the brunt of that fall.
15. Spoke hazards
Jody Brooks at Plan Bike offers a sobering reminder of why cargo-carrying, even something as simple as a purse, needs thoughtful attention.
As someone who has erred in this regard–fortunately, without any serious repercussions–I can vouch for the importance of Jody’s advice.
16. It’s the law: Keep one ear unplugged
For safety and to avoid a ticket, see VC 27400 on the DMV website. Yes, whether you call them headphones, headsets, earphones, earplugs, or ear buds, there are laws about biking with them!
Bike with one ear unplugged! This is essential to staying alert to sounds around you. On a group ride, that means you’ll hear other riders calling out obstacles too. Don’t jeopardize others’ safety, or yours.
Don’t want to sacrifice sound quality? You may want to investigate OneGood Earphones from Far End Gear (the company formerly known as One Good Earbud).
Take care, too, not to get tangled in a dangling earbud.
17. Weather tips: Changing seasons on the Central Coast
Shortened daylight hours mean many people on bikes (e.g., those who commute to work) suddenly have to give more thought to bike lights and accessories, so they’ll be visible to motor vehicle drivers and others.
And even on California’s Central Coast, where snow isn’t an issue, seasonal changes bring rain and colder temperatures that affect cycling. For example, brakes are less efficient when wet, so it’s necessary to allow extra distance for stopping in rain.
“Seasonal Tips for Cycling” were shared by our Monterey Bay neighbors, Piet Canin of Ecology Action of Santa Cruz and Theresia Rogerson, Santa Cruz County Health Agency staff representative to the Community Traffic Safety Coalition.
Click here for more weather-related tips on the Bicycling Monterey site.
18. Alcohol and bicycle safety
If you consume alcohol, please use the same good judgment about when it’s safe to get behind those handlebars that you would use when it’s safe to get behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle. And although you would not be subject to a DUI (driving under the influence) ticket, you would still be subject to a BUI (biking under the influence). Refer to California VC 21200.5 for the latest info about a BUI fine.
Just as with a car, consuming too much alcohol can be dangerous on a bike. Click here for more info.
19. Biking at night
See the California DMV web page on “Equipment Requirements” for laws about night riding and other equipment. (For Spanish translation of equipment requirements for night riding and more–not available at the DMV website as of 3/22/13, refer to Bicycling Monterey’s en español page.)
Budget-minded lights: If your budget doesn’t allow the bike light you most desire, don’t be discouraged from night riding. See “Low-cost lights” in this site’s Biking in the Dark section.
Buddy system: In some locations, it makes sense to bike with a friend, or even in a group.
Changing your route: Changing your usual route is sometimes wise at night. For example, some people on bikes might skip the multi-use/bike path at night and instead bike in more traveled areas, even if it’s a road shared with cars–and rarely even a sidewalk. (Sidewalk riding is usually not recommended. See the “Sidewalks” heading below.)
High-visibility apparel: As mentioned above, and even more so at night…
Better to be looked over than overlooked.
Monterey biker in a Graniterock vest; see “More Bicycle Safety Gear.”
20. Sidewalks: Safety, teaching children, and cities’ regulations
Get savvy about sidewalk riding–for safety, and to be a better ambassador for the bike community!
Please read this entire sidewalk section. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. Special thanks to the following for their research assistance regarding sidewalks: James Serrano, City of Salinas; Rich Deal, City of Monterey; Ariana Green, formerly with the City of Monterey; and Christopher Kidd, board member of the California Bicycle Coalition.
In Monterey County, for the safety of all parties, you may generally assume that bicycling on sidewalks is discouraged–and in some cases, it is not permitted.
There may be signs posted that indicate “No bicycles” on sidewalks. Many signs are not at eye level, to reduce risk of vandalism. Look up higher, so you don’t miss the signs.
Will you get a ticket for riding on a sidewalk where prohibited? Use common sense. If you bike slowly and are considerate of others (e.g., yielding to pedestrians, and mindful of business entranceways), in most places in Monterey County, it is unlikely–although it is possible– that you will be ticketed for sidewalk riding. For specifics on some Monterey County cities, see below.
What if you feel safer on the sidewalk?
In most cases, riding on sidewalks is not safer than street-riding. Click here to learn why. (Update: A tough reminder was experienced by a Monterey County dad on 7/17/12. Click here for KSBW story. For related post on this site, click here.)
If you decide to use a sidewalk, check these “Top 5 Rules for Riding on a Sidewalk” from Commute by Bike.
Nonetheless, there are times when a person biking determines that a sidewalk is the safest place to bike. For example, rather than biking at night on a section of the bike path that is mostly deserted, or on an adjacent roadway with many cars, a person on a bike may decide that a sidewalk is their best option. One such example is the sidewalk parallel to Del Monte Avenue, alongside the Naval Postgraduate School fence; at night, many people (especially those biking alone) prefer this to the nearby bike path.
Another common area where less experienced bicyclists may feel safer on sidewalks is in East Salinas, such as, on stretches of North Sanborn where traffic is especially heavy (and there are no bike lanes).
When biking where the road has no bike lane and has heavy vehicle traffic, and the road has a very long sidewalk parallel to it (with few breaks for driveways), that sidewalk may be the safest place to bike. Stay alert for driveways and pedestrians.
And please, if ever you’re biking on a sidewalk, s-l-o-w it down! Be a good ambassador for the bike community.
Before going into sidewalk riding ordinances for various local cities, let’s talk about sidewalks and children.
In Salinas (the Monterey County seat and its largest city), and in many other cities of Monterey County, do we encourage exceptions about sidewalk riding for children?
With qualifications, yes: Most people agree that children up to approximately age thirteen cannot really make the necessary decisions about vehicle speed and distance that allow them to bike safely in the street. For street riding, it is vital that a parent or other responsible adult bike with them and provide close supervision and guidance. But again, don’t be deceived by a false sense of security about sidewalk riding. Extra vigilance is required if they are practicing bike skills on a sidewalk! Teach children, and teens, those “Top 5 Rules for Riding on a Sidewalk” and other tips.
Another reason to help children practice bike skills on streets, accompanied by a supervising adult–and at the age and in the location where appropriate–is to help them move beyond the concept of the bicycle being a toy. Help children learn that a bicycle is a real form of transportation, with many benefits beyond fun.
And as with teaching teens to drive, give serious attention to their bicycling education–rules of the road, safe riding practices, courtesy to others, and more. Include teaching them about equipment maintenance (including taking advantage of local classes such as these).
Okay, on with local cities’ sidewalk ordinances.
NOTE: Some local cities have additional bicycling regulations linked below. If you are unsure whether some of those additional regulations (other than the sidewalk regulations) differ from standard California bike laws, know that some do, some don’t. No worries, just refer to the DMV codes linked at the bottom of this page, or feel free to contact me with questions.
Sidewalk riding: City of Carmel
“It is unlawful for any person to ride, use or operate a bicycle upon any sidewalk within any of the commercial districts of the City. ” 10.40.010 (Ord. 79-21 § 29, 1979; Ord. 183 C.S. § 1, 1968; Code 1975 § 536.1).
Sidewalk riding: City of Del Rey Oaks
Municipal code (1995) 10.32.020 states, “No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.”
Sidewalk riding: City of Gonzales
Municipal code states, “Operation On Sidewalks Prohibited: No person shall operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk within the city. ” (1972 Code § 10.52.130)
(For additional Gonzales municipal code related to bicycling, click here.)
Sidewalk riding: City of King City
Municipal code states, “It is unlawful to ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk.” 10.16.090
(For additional King City ordinance related to bicycling, click here.)
Sidewalk riding: City of Marina
Municipal code indicates that “In any area designated by resolution of the city council, it is unlawful to ride a bicycle…on any sidewalk….” 12.24.030
(For additional Marina municipal code related to bicycling, click here.)
Sidewalk riding: City of Monterey
Bicycling on sidewalks in the City of Monterey, as confirmed 3/25/13, is prohibited in certain areas (mostly downtown) where “signs are in place giving notice thereof,” per Section 22-12 (click here). Two such spots are at the intersection of Alvarado and Polk (indicating no bicycling on sidewalks along Alvarado Street) and at the top of Old Fisherman’s Wharf/Wharf I.
About a decade ago, there were “No Bike” signs on the Alvarado Mall (the brick passageway downtown, north of Del Monte Avenue). The signs were removed by the City because Alvarado Mall is an important passageway between downtown and the waterfront for people who bike. The related ordinance is still on the books Section 20.-48.4 (click here) but will be updated in conjunction with the Monterey on the Move Plan. Just fyi, the “No Skate or Skateboard” signs remain due to the noise factor of skates and skateboards on the brick pavers.
See “Where the plazas are in the City of Monterey” for more about sidewalk riding on the city’s plazas, and on the Alvarado Mall.
(For additional City of Monterey code on bicycling, refer to Section 22-12 click here.)
As elsewhere in Monterey County, the City of Monterey generally encourages riding in the roadway, not on the sidewalk.
Sidewalk riding: City of Pacific Grove
Municipal code indicates, “No person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk.”
(For additional PG regulations related to bicycling, click here.)
Sidewalk riding: City of Salinas
In Salinas, city code reads, “No person shall ride a bicycle in any area designated as prohibited by resolution of the city council and where signs are in place giving notice of prohibition of bicycle riding.”
As confirmed 3/22/13, there is no prohibition on sidewalk riding except for a few areas of Oldtown/downtown. Experienced bicyclists will point out that there isn’t any need for most people to bike on sidewalks in Oldtown anyway.
Even where sidewalk riding is not expressly prohibited, the City of Salinas encourages riding in roadways (not on sidewalks) in most cases, for the safety of all concerned and for the reasons discussed above. And, of course, anywhere a person on a bike determines that the sidewalk is where they feel safest riding, the City leaders urge vigilance about driveways, intersections, and such (those high-danger zones for people who choose to bike on sidewalks).
Remember that if biking on a sidewalk near pedestrians, business entrances, etc., bike very slowly. Always yield to pedestrians. In fact, Salinas code further states: “Any permitted bicycle riding on sidewalks shall be done with due caution and reasonable speed. The rider shall yield to all pedestrian traffic and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.”
(For more on Salinas regulations regarding bicycling, click here.)
Sidewalk riding: City of Seaside
Municipal code indicates “No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk when doing so interferes with pedestrian traffic in any direction.” Ordinance 10.40.010.
Sidewalk riding: For all of California
California law leaves it to local jurisdictions to set rules for riding bikes on sidewalks. As CA VC Section 21650 states, “This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles…on any sidewalk…where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance [such as, those cited above].”
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition states that in San Francisco, children under thirteen may ride on sidewalks unless otherwise posted, but reminds that this varies around the state. As of 11/20/12, Christopher Kidd, board member of the California Bicycle Coalition–had compiled a helpful list of 535 local jurisdictions (cities, counties) in California and their sidewalk cycling rules. (Thanks to Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious for highlighting Kidd’s research in the Cyclelicious 11/16/12 sidewalk riding post.) Kidd’s research covers a lot of ground. Per standard recommendations, you may wish to confirm specifics on local areas with local traffic engineers, transportation agencies, bicycle alliances/coalitions, or other local sources. See Kidd’s notes on the sidewalk riding spreadsheet to avoid confusion, e.g., about “Allowed everywhere.” His sidewalk riding rules document gives more specific guidelines. Special thanks to Christopher Kidd for sharing his sidewalk cycling research.
Above, Monterey County residents the Warwick sisters,
preparing to bike Salinas to Solvang with their dad.
21. Children and teens
Teens: Out cruising with your buddies and want to be sure there’s no cause for a ticket–but don’t have time to review all the bike laws? Check bike laws summary flier – “Be Cool, Be Safe.” And click here for examples of how Monterey County law enforcement is supporting people who bike!
Use your browser’s “find” feature to quickly locate all references to “children” on this Bicycling Monterey web page. Below are some additional tips especially for babies and kids.
First, is your baby or child ready?
The little one above is a terrific age to begin a love affair with bicycling.
Infants under the age of one should not be transported on a bicycle. Visit the League of American Bicyclists website for tips on kids and bikes, starting with “When is an infant old enough to be on a bike?” Also see the age-specific recommendations linked below.
If your child is ready, note carefully:
- Children younger than approximately age thirteen (some say age nine to thirteen) cannot really make the necessary decisions about vehicle speed and distance that allow them to bike safely in the street. However, sidewalk riding has its dangers! See “sidewalk” tips on this web page. Parental guidance is important, even on most sidewalks.
- So children under 9-13 should never bike in a street? It’s not recommended in most case if the children are on their own.
- To give them street biking experience, at the age and on appropriate routes:
- Adults must choose appropriate streets on which children can learn. (How to choose appropriate routes? Choose appropriate Monterey County routes for children by making use of “Where to Bike in Monterey County” and the Bicycle Maps section. Feel free to contact me for ideas, or with questions.
- Stay right alongside the children, either by bike or on foot, and providing very close supervision.
- In advance, be sure you are well acquainted with bike laws and safe riding practices (review the information, videos, and resource links found on this web page).
- Also ahead of time, try out the route on your own, without the children), to spot any potential problem areas.
- See “Bicycling Children Growing Up Street-Wise” for inspiration from Monterey County parents and teachers.
- Want more photo inspiration? You’ll find it in the children and teens section of this site. For additional photos, see “Babes on Bikes” and “Babes on Bikes II” (the latter includes Monterey County children) by Anna Fahey in Sightline Daily: News & Views for a Sustainable Northwest.
Looking for Safe Routes to School-type info? Click here.
- Want some inspiration from Monterey County elementary school educators–and the children they bike with? These educators, who are well experienced cyclists, are teaching children bike safety not just in the classroom and on the playground, but out in the community too! That’s right, hands-on (the-handlebars) instruction to help teach children how to safely navigate their community by bike. Click here for a story about Monterey Park Cycling, Salinas.
- Here’s more inspiration, in the realm of “Bicycle Advocacy: What you can do“: Our Monterey Bay region neighbors in San Benito County even provide, in English and Spanish, Safe Routes to Schools brochures featuring maps of suggested bicycling and walking routes to each individual school!
and more resources for biking with children
- Ideas for Teaching Cycling to Children is a good resource. It was written by Fred Oswald, a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor.
- Our Monterey Bay neighbors at Ecology Action in Santa Cruz have a detailed web section on Bicycle Safety Tips for Youth.
- Age-specific recommendations (for ages 1-5, 5-8, 9-12, 13-17–also found in the right-hand panel of the “Educating Children and Teens” section) are provided by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (bicyclinginfo.org).
- You may also glean useful info from Kids and Bike Safety at http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/KidsandBikeSafetyWeb/index.htm and from the International Bicycle Fund’s Teaching/Learning to Bike and Teaching Children Bicycle Safety.
- The Monterey Public Library has a DVD most kids will find is a fun way to get an overview about bike safety: “Bike Safety with Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which also includes a bit of info on skateboard and roller skate safety too. Ask for it at your local library.
- Have a child old enough to want to listen to music while biking–or to text or talk on a cell phone? Review together the “Cell phones and texting” and “Keep one ear unplugged” info on this web page. If they watch “Bike Safety with Bill Nye the Science Guy,” they’ll hear Bill refer to not using headphones while biking. Teens will be glad to know that one ear bud is permitted by CA law, just not both ears. Still, keeping the volume adequately down to prevent distraction is important too.
- If you have children or teens interested in mountain biking, take advantage of the Monterey Off Road Cycling Association’s Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, where they’ll receive safety instruction while having fun.
- Some families have gained a lot of experience by bicycle touring with children. Visit the Harrison Family AKA Pedouins, who visited Monterey County and authored A Pedouin Life: Stop and Smell the Artichokes. Another is The Family on Bikes website, which includes Tips on Bicycling with Children.
- Ideas for Teaching Cycling to Children is another worthwhile resource. It was written by Fred Oswald, a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor.
- The American Academy of Pediatricians offers these myths and facts about children biking.
- Companies that manufacture bikes and bike-related items for use with children typically address some safety questions on their sites (e.g., Burley “Child Trailers” FAQs.)
- I Am Traffic offers “Cycling with Children,” which has some helpful tips.
Also see “Children growing up streetwise” and other posts in the “Children and Teens” category of this website, including “Bicycle culture and youth,” which has a few tips about kids and helmets–and sources for some extra cool ones.
- A parent asked me recently how I liked the Burley trailer I used when my daughter was young. I liked it a lot! There are also many new options available to parents today. One example: The Winther Kangaroo, with U.S. dealers available.
- Another option for biking with kids, especially when you want to venture out on roads with kids who are just learning to be street-wise, is a trail-a-bike. If you want to try one out before purchasing, rent one from a local shop.
- Bike trailers and kids’ bikes are low to the ground. High-visibility flags make sense! Take a look at the fashionable flags from Purple Sky/Catrike Flags and the high-visibility flags from Be Seen Wear. For more about flags, see “High-Visibility: Dress for Success.”
- Also see Bicycling Monterey’s section on “High-visibility apparel and accessories.”
Trail-a-bikes are increasingly popular–and rightly so.
22. Stay legal on the street
When you’re riding on a road (shared with cars), keep those aforementioned California bike laws in mind. Here are a couple examples:
Single file or side-by-side?
Is it okay to ride alongside another person on a bike, or must you ride single file? Basically, whenever you are riding slow enough to impede traffic, ride single file. See our neighboring county’s Street Smart Santa Cruz post “Cycling Side by Side” for a detailed answer that cites California law. For further applicable comments, from bikeportland.org, see “Bike Law 101: Riding Two Abreast.”
Other legal requirements have to do with necessary equipment, including bike helmets for children/teens under age eighteen, and seat, reflectors, light, brake, and such for all ages.
Heads-up for fixie riders: If you view this video (click here) about ways to stop a fixed-gear bike, note that their #1 recommendation is to have a front brake! (In the absence of that, also note that their “ways to stop” all require clips or straps.) Thanks to Salinas Bike Party, a courteous social bike run, for this video link.
Proper lane usage
In another California county (San Diego), the bicycle community and the police wanted to avoid incidents like this, where a person on a bike was incorrectly ticketed even though they had followed California law about lane usage for bicyclists. So, trainings for police officers on bicyclists’ rights and laws were established.
In Monterey County, we’re fortunate. Our local police departments are pretty bike-savvy! Check out these Constables of the Peace in Monterey County; they aren’t just bike-friendly, they are biking themselves.
If ever you feel you’ve been incorrectly warned–or even mistakenly ticketed–by a police officer, please notify the head of that police department. Feel free to contact me with any questions about bicycling laws.
Monterey County police departments can arrange complimentary officer trainings about bike laws. Contact me if you are a new officer in Monterey County, or even if you are not new, and you or your fellow officers would like such a training as a refresher.
23. Avoiding the door zone
Wondering about cars parked in bike lanes? It is legal to park in a bicycle lane if the vehicle does not block bicyclists and/or if there is not a “No Parking/Bike Lane” sign posted. We are fortunate in Monterey County to have many “No Parking/Bike Lane” signs; see Signs of a Bicycling Friendly Monterey County.
24. What about freeways and bridges?
You are free to ride a bicycle on all streets and even highways, unless otherwise posted (as provided in CA VC 21960). Note:
- Freeways or expressways are an exception; you may not ride on most of these! Signs tell when a person on a bike must not enter. Please watch for these signs–and if in doubt, use an alternate route.
- A second exception is some bridges; watch for signs indicating no bicycles.
25. Red Cross first aid tips for smartphone users
26. Taking responsibility for personal safety
Bicycling Monterey encourages being mindful about personal safety. That doesn’t mean always wearing high-visibility apparel, instead of a preferred fashion. (Of course, there’s also the option to add a reflective sash or other high-visibility item to your outfit. See this guide’s section on More Bike Safety Gear.)
It also makes sense that many people on bikes prefer feeling the wind in their hair over wearing a helmet.
Yes, bike safety isn’t ensured by a neon jacket, or a helmet, anyway. There’s indeed a need for safer bikeways in nearly every state and country! (See local, state, and national infrastructure resources below.)
Mutual respect and cooperation are reasonable expectations to have on shared routes, though unfortunately not found 100% of the time. That’s true of roads shared by bicycles and cars, and it’s also true of the multi-use path, which is intended for use by joggers, skaters, and pedestrians too.
The young military service personnel below are out having fun on the bike/multi-use path, too. They cheerfully share the path with others, with a mindfulness about safety for everyone.
(For a little about skateboarding on this site, see “Bicycle Parking, Security, and Storage.”)
Just as with people who drive cars on a regular basis, nearly every person who frequently rides a bike has at least one story of a frustrating—if not injurious or life-threatening—experience while traveling around others.
- Perhaps it’s a pedestrian on a cell phone wandering into the bikeway, oblivious to the person on a bike who has to slam on their bike brake/s to avoid hitting him or her.
- Or it may be an experience of being “doored” by a driver exiting a vehicle without looking to see that there’s a bicycle coming alongside.
- It may be another person on a bike who puts you at risk, even from something as unintentional as losing their balance and crossing into your lane.
Likewise there are pedestrians or drivers who have stories about distracted or arrogant people on bikes. And since so few people on bikes live a car-free life, most of us have shared-road tales from all perspectives.
The point is, both better bicycle infrastructure and a heightened awareness about and respect for sharing the various types of bikeways in a community make a difference in bike safety.
And the more people who bicycle in a community, the safer it is to cycle there. That’s what Bicycling Monterey is all about: encouraging more bicycling in Monterey County, along with encouraging a more positive share-the-road, share-the-multi-use-path, share-the-beauty way of thinking and being.
Below, Al Abbott of Abbott Plumbing, Salinas
enjoying a Sunday afternoon on the multiuse trail,
using a cross-training street strider.
27. What about e-bikes and other non people-powered bikes?
As of 4/29/13, bikes such as the Specialized Turbo e-bike, which was released in the U.S. in 2013 and travels up to 28 mph (45 kph), are in the class of motorized bicycles that are not permitted on the multi-use trail/bike path. Folks riding a motorized bicycle at speeds above 20 mph would be subject to a citation.
Please refer to the Bike Rentals section for much more on this topic.
28. Local, state, and national resources: Help improve infrastructure for safer bicycling
On the local level, here in Monterey County, see “Bicycle advocacy: What you can do.” Also refer to Monterey County Bicycle Shops, Services, Clubs, and Resources.
Statewide and on the national level, contact state and federal legislators regarding bike-related legislation. Support the work of state and national bike advocacy groups, such as:
- California Bicycle Coalition (Also see Bike Safe California /bikesafecalifornia.org, a project of the California Bicycle Coalition, which offers bike safety resources.)
- People for Bikes: Check out their cool videos and sign the pledge.
- Alliance for Biking and Walking: Make use of their resources, including webinars like their 9-14-11 one on outreach to Spanish-speaking communities. (Click here for Bicycling Monterey’s compilation of Spanish biking resources.)
- Safe Routes to School: Check out what’s happening locally, and respond to requests for SRTS support. Take advantage of SRTS webinars, like their 2011 one on bike parking/security/storage. (Click here for Bicycling Monterey’s bicycle parking, security, and storage post.
Then scroll down it for notes from that webinar.)
- League of American Bicyclists: Make use of help offered by local League instructors.
- America Bikes
29. Links to DMV Vehicle Code – Bicycles
For ease of referral, below is an excerpt from the California DMV website, courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
(Spanish speakers: Lo siento. As of 22 March 2013, these DMV links lead to a “Disponible sólo en inglés” message.)
Generally, 21200–21210, 39000–39009, 39011
Carrying of articles, 21205
Change of address, 39009
Dealer defined, 39006
Defined, 231, 21200, 39000
Direction ridden, 21650.1
Fees, 39001, 39004
Freeway, use on, 21960
Hitching rides, 21203
Indicia, 39001, 39003
Lanes, see BICYCLE LANES
Department of Motor Vehicles, 39001
fee, 39001, 39004
local authority, 39003
renewal, 39001, 39004
Local authority, 21100, 21206, 39002
driver’s license required, 12509
registration exemption, 4020
use of bike lanes, 21209
Mutilation of license or serial number, 39002
Notice to correct, 40303.5
One–way streets, 21202
Operating without license, 39002
Path, see BICYCLE PATH
supplied by retailer, 39006
Reflectorized equipment, 21201–21201.5
Registration forms, 39001
Rules of the road, 21200, 21202
Serial number, 39007
Toll facilities, 23330
Towing, 21203, 21712
Traffic signals, 21456.2
Transfer of registration, 39008
Transported on Buses, 35400 , 35400.9
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