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Is riding a bike on the sidewalk illegal in California?

Roads can be scary places for cyclists. Though California classifies bicycles as vehicles and riders have a right to use the road, sometimes motorists do not show respect to bike riders, as a recent 25-year high in cyclist fatalities demonstrates.

Bike riders may turn to sidewalks, where they might be a nuisance to pedestrians. Riders and walkers may wonder if traveling by bike is legal on California sidewalks.

Various statutes throughout the state

No California statute prohibits riding a bike on the sidewalk. The state government leaves that decision to county and city leaders. Some cities permit riding on sidewalks in some areas if done safely, such as Encinitas and San Diego. However, such places do not allow riding bikes on the sidewalk in busy downtown business districts.

In Carlsbad and Poway, bike riders may not ride on sidewalks. In Del Mar, riders should not enter parks. Clearly, a rider must take responsibility and understand local laws to avoid fines or citations.

Safe passage on sidewalks

Where municipalities and cities permit riding on sidewalks, cyclists should extend the same consideration to pedestrians they desire from vehicles on the streets. Bike riders can easily travel five times faster than a walker. A collision would be catastrophic for both parties.

In some locations, a sidewalk may be the only safe passage. A rider should slow down, especially when pedestrians are present. When approaching walkers from behind, ringing a bell or calling out may alert them to your presence and avoid startling them. Riders should take extra care when entering street traffic again and pay attention to avoid dooring.

Cyclists have one of the healthiest and happiest hobbies. With some forethought, they can determine when using a sidewalk is an acceptable option.