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 39000-39011SHC 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 (CVC 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.

Information for Micromobility Users  Scooter Sign

California Vehicle Code (CVC Section 2505, Section 21200-21213, Section 21228-21235, Section 275, Section 22411 and Section 21290-21296)

A “shared mobility device” includes electrically motorized board, motorized scooter, electric bicycle, bicycle, or other similar transportation device that is made available to the public at a price by a shared mobility service provider for shared use and transportation.

A person operating an electric bicycle has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions relevant to a motor vehicle driver, including but not limited to the clause of driving under the influence. Section 21213 states that a class 3 electric bicycle can only be operated by a person who is 16 years of age or older. A person riding a class 3 electric bicycle must wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet. In accordance with Section 21207.5, a motorized bicycle can only be operated on a bicycle lane if it is within or adjacent to a roadway. This is mainly a concern in regards to motorized bicycles on a bicycle trail in the context of an equestrian, hiking, or recreational trail. 

Similarly, Section 21291 states that an electrically motorized board can only be operated by a person who is 16 years of age or older. They must also wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet. An electrically motorized board can only operate at a maximum speed of 15 MPH and on a roadway with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less, unless the electrically motorized board is operated within a bikeway. Under Section 21296, it is illegal for a person to operate an electrically motorized board while under the influence and can be fined up to $250. 

Both electric bicycles electrically motorized boards are expected to be adequately equipped with appropriate headlights and taillights on their vehicles when operating in the dark. An appropriate lamp or reflector combination must also be attached to the operator of the electric bicycle or electrically motorized board as noted in Section 21201 and 21293.

Meant to prevent scooter accidents, Section 21228 enforces e-scooters to turn left by: stopping after the intersection on the right curb, dismounting, and crossing the roadway on foot.

E-scooters are required to ride in a Class type II bicycle lane. Section 21229 states that this type of bicycle lane is on the right edge of a street and has a solid white line on each side. It usually has a bicycle symbol inside the white borders. It only facilitates one-way riding. There are only four exceptions to this law: while passing another vehicle or pedestrian, when completing a left hand turn, to avoid debris or other hazards in the bike lane, or when turning right.

E-scooters have to follow traffic rules like a motor vehicle. Section 21221 says that E-scooters have all the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle. The only exception is where those rights or responsibilities “by their very nature, can have no application.” This traffic provision makes specific mention of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drunk E-scootering can lead to a DUI charge, as well as a traffic ticket of around $350.

Riders under the age of eighteen are required to wear a bicycle helmet when using an e-scooter. Section 21235 states that the helmet must be worn properly and fastened. Violation of this code can result to a fine up to $200. It is important to note that this requirement does not apply to adults. Also, this section forbids riding an e-scooter on the sidewalk, riding with a passenger on the scooter, and driving an e-scooter without a driver's license. Riding an e-scooter on the sidewalk is only permissible if the e-scooter is being parked or to get a parked scooter onto the streets. 

Section 275 defines crosswalks as sidewalks at street intersections that are approximately right angles. Under section 21235, it is a traffic violation to ride an E-scooter on a sidewalk. Therefore, it is also a violation to ride one in a crosswalk and doing so can lead to a traffic ticket of around $200.

The speed limit for e-scooters is 15 mph and going over the speed limit can result in a traffic stop and a ticket. That ticket can cost up to $250. This law falls under section 22411. 

Information on Micromobility Provider

California Vehicle Code (CVC Section 2505 and Sections 39050-39060)

All shared mobility devices must have a single unique alphanumeric ID assigned by the provider that is visible from a distance of ten feet. A local authority may require a provider to provide trip data for all trips within the jurisdiction of the local authority. However, individual trip data should not be shared.

A shared mobility service provider must obtain a permit or enter an agreement with the city or county with jurisdiction over the area of use. At minimum, the provider is required to comply with the following two requirements:

(1) The shared mobility provider is to maintain commercial general liability insurance coverage with a carrier in California; the insurance should not exclude coverage for injuries or damages caused by the shared mobility provider to the shared mobility user.

(2) The agreement between the shared mobility provider and user should not contain any clause in which the user waives, releases, or limits their legal rights.

Otherwise, a local authority may enact reasonable regulations on shared mobility devices and providers within its jurisdiction. Reasonable regulations may include adoption of operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules; impose fees on reasonable costs; requirements to protect safety and welfare; ensure accessibility, support environmental sustainability, and ensure equitable access to historically disadvantaged communities.

Additional resources: