California Vehicle Code

The California Vehicle Code (C.V.C) is a rulebook containing information about traffic laws in California. Specific sections of the C.V.C defining rules and laws for pedestrian and bicycle travel are described below. 

Information for Bicyclists Bicycle sign

California Vehicle Code and Streets and Highway Code (CVC Sections 21200-21212 and 39000-39011 and SHC Sections 885-886, 887-888.8, and 890-894.2)

A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. As such, bicycles are generally prohibited from riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks. An exception to this is on marked crosswalks of multi-use paths. On multi-use paths, bicyclists function as pedestrians at intersections by activating the pedestrian signal and waiting for the light to change in their favor. A bicycle operated on a roadway, or the shoulder of a highway shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven upon the roadway. Unless otherwise directed by a bicycle signal, an operator of a bicycle shall obey the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle at all traffic signals.

As set forth by Section 21202 of the California Vehicle Code, any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. A "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

Information for Pedestrians Pedestrian crossing sign

California Vehicle Code (Sections 21949-21971).
The California Vehicle Code describes the responsibilities of pedestrians when crossing the street or walking along a street on a sidewalk.

The Vehicle Code also addresses the roles and responsibilities of motorists in relationship to pedestrians and wheelchair users.

California, like most other states, requires both pedestrians and drivers to exercise due care. All street intersections are legally considered crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked.

The Vehicle Code states that drivers must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. The Vehicle Code does not prohibit pedestrians from crossing roadways at places other than crosswalks, except between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic signals or police officers. Local authorities may adopt ordinances prohibiting pedestrians from crossing streets outside crosswalks. For signalized intersections, the Vehicle Code states that the pedestrian may cross with a green light at any marked or unmarked crosswalk unless expressly prohibited. The pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time the signal changed. For closely adjoining intersections, defined in the Vehicle Code as intersections where the outermost boundaries are confined in a distance of 200 or fewer feet, the Department of Transportation or local jurisdiction may designate a single intersection. When so designated, the single intersection shall be the legal intersection for the purposes of traffic movement and regulation. The Vehicle Code does not specifically state whether vehicles need to remain stopped until the pedestrian has completely crossed the street. This topic has become an important issue with regard to pedestrian safety due to the phenomenon known as the "multiple threat." This occurs when one vehicle stops for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, and the car(s) in the adjacent travel lane(s) fail(s) to yield to the pedestrians. Section 21951 of the California Vehicle Code addresses this issue by stating that “[w]hen a vehicle is stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway, vehicles approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.” Because there is no law against driving through the crosswalk after the pedestrian has passed (but not reached the opposite curb), motorists from the rear may not see the pedestrian in the crosswalk due to the other vehicle continuing to move forward.
According to the Vehicle Code, "it is the policy of the State of California that safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access, whether by foot, wheelchair, walker, or stroller, be provided to the residents of the state." The code also states that it is the intent of the Legislature that all government levels, especially Caltrans and other DOTs, will work to provide safe, convenient passage for pedestrians on or across all streets and highways, increase levels of walking, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

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