“It’s like riding a bike: once you learn, you never really forget…”
Despite the classic expression, sometimes the rules for riding your bike can be a little harder to remember. That’s why we have brought you this post. To make sure you are having as safe and pleasant a ride as possible, we wanted to provide a refresher on all the do’s and don’t’s of bicycling on the roads of Los Angeles.
First thing’s first: Safety. Bike helmets are optional for adults over the age of 18 and mandatory for anyone under. Although they are optional, we recommend using a helmet when riding your bicycle for improved safety on the road. It is illegal to ride your bike with headphones in both ears unless they are hearing aids.
Despite some notions to the contrary, bicyclists are responsible for stopping at all intersections just like drivers are. When bicycling, it is necessary to obey all traffic lights, stop signs, and other rules of the road just as if you were driving a car. Do not proceed through intersections until the traffic signal changes and/or the intersection clears.
Always ride your bicycle on the right side of the road, in the same direction as car traffic. Unless the road is a one-way street or there is a closure due to construction, you must ride on the same side as the flow of traffic. Riding on the sidewalk is allowed in some cities in Los Angeles County – such as the City of Los Angeles – as long as the bicyclists do not ride “with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” (LAMC 56.15). Please check this list to see if your city allows riding on the sidewalk.
Bicyclists who are moving slower than the flow of traffic are legally required to use the bike lane when there is one present and available. Similarly, if you are riding slower than the cars on the road and there is no bike lane present, you must ride as close to the right side of the street as possible. If you are biking at the same speed as traffic, you may use the regular road lane to ride. Riders may also use the regular road lane when passing others, making a left turn, or avoiding dangerous conditions. Whenever you exit the bike lane or enter the regular road lane, make sure to check and signal before maneuvering in to traffic.
Examples of Bicycle Signals
When taking a Left Turn, extend your left arm so that it is parallel to the road:
When taking a Right Turn, raise your left hand so that it makes a 90 degree angle:
When coming to a Stop, lower your left hand towards the ground:
Tips for Drivers Sharing the Road with Bicyclists
When it comes to driving your private vehicle on the same roadway as bicyclists, it is important to share the road. Always obey the speed limit and be aware of your surroundings when driving alongside or near bicyclists.
Drivers should pay attention and yield to bicyclists just as you would if they were in a car. Do not underestimate the speed of bicyclists, especially near intersections and corners, in order to avoid putting anyone in danger.
It is very important to give bikes and their riders plenty of room on the right side of your vehicle. Remember to keep at least three feet of distance between your vehicle and any bicyclists and avoid passing too closely. Pass bicycles only when it is safe to do so and signal just as you would in normal traffic.
Exercise caution when parking and exiting your vehicle on the street to avoid opening your car door in the way of an oncoming bicyclist. The “Dutch Reach” is a technique in which the driver uses their right hand (or the hand furthest from the driver’s side door) to open the car door. This strategy ensures that the driver naturally turns their head and looks over their shoulder before opening the door, making sure that it is safe to do so.
Free, Metro-sponsored Bike Classes
For a more hands-on approach to the topics we covered, we encourage you to attend a free, Metro-sponsored bike class. These classes are offered throughout Los Angeles County and are designed for individuals who have ridden before, but might not yet feel quite comfortable enough to ride on Southern California roads. Click here to find a class that matches your learning level and location.
If you would like a more thorough breakdown of the legal rules of the road, as they pertain to bicycles, please read the California Vehicle Code (CVC) for bicycles. For another overview of tips for bicyclists, please see the Five Rules of the Road from the League of American Bicyclists.