The answers to this question vary depending on where you live in California. As of today, there’s no state-wide law restricting or allowing bicycle use on sidewalks. According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) §21206, city and county governments are responsible for drawing up and enforcing laws of bicycles in pedestrian areas.
Below, we’ll examine how three of the biggest California cities deal with the issue of biking on sidewalks. These examples should give you a clear picture of the complexity of this issue in the Golden State.
Los Angeles: A New Law For Every Block
It’s not uncommon for the regulations on sidewalk biking to change depending on what section of a city you’re in. Let’s first take the most populous city in CA, Los Angeles, as an example. According to Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), you can legally ride your bike on sidewalks of the City area so long as you don’t show a “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others (see LAMC §56.15).
By contrast, sections like LAMC §15.76.080 shows that unincorporated areas of Los Angeles county like Marina Del Ray and East LA don’t allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks. A few other areas around LA that don’t allow bicycle riding on sidewalks include Santa Monica (SMMC §3.12.540), Manhattan Beach (MBMC §3.01.090), and Inglewood (IMC §3-22).
In other sections of greater LA there’s a great deal of grey area where you can and can’t ride on sidewalks. For instance, LAMC §15.53.010 states that riding in West Hollywood is allowed only if there aren’t already designated bike lanes. West Hollywood authorities also require all bikers who choose to ride on sidewalks travel in the same direction as traffic.
As you can see, it’s pretty much impossible to tell where it’s legal to ride on sidewalks in Los Angeles unless you’ve done your research. Thankfully, there are many online resources that clearly list the areas you can and can’t ride. It’s definitely worth your time to research these cheat-sheets before biking around any Californian city.
No-No In San Francisco, So-So In Sacramento
By contrast with Los Angeles, the San Francisco Transportation Code (SFTC) is unambiguous in its stance on sidewalk bike-riding: don’t do it! SFTC §7.2.12 says it’s illegal for bikers over the age of 13 to ride on sidewalks, period.
In the nearby capital Sacramento, however, bike-riding on sidewalks is allowed without restrictions in Davis, Galt, and Folsom. Other areas like the City of Sacramento, Elk Grove, West Sacramento, and unincorporated areas of Sacramento County only allow bike-riding on sidewalks in designated areas.
Bottom Line: Check Your City Laws
Unfortunately, there’s no cookie-cutter answer to whether or not you can ride your bikes on the sidewalks of California. We could go on for pages exploring the specifics of every city’s laws. The only way for you to feel secure riding on sidewalks in California is to look online for your city’s local laws. If you can’t find the info you need online, then try getting in touch with members of your local government by phone or email.