Codes, Laws and Regulations for Bicyclists

This page is provided to help bicyclists understand how to ride safely and legally on public roads, parking, and on bikeways within the State of California and the City of Los Angeles. Please click on the links below to find the actual laws regarding bicycling.

  1. California Vehicle Code
  2. California Streets and Highway Code
  3. City of Los Angeles Municipal Code

For a quick review of the laws regarding Bicycling in California and the City, please see the California Vehicle Code and Los Angeles Municipal Code summary listed below.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) Bicycle Reference Summary

Bicyclist Rights (CVC 21200)
Bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers.

Alcohol and Drugs (CVC 21200.5)
It is against the law to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Equipment (CVC 21201 and 21204)
Bicycles must be equipped with at least a brake which allows operators to execute to a wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement. Handlebars must not be higher than the rider’s shoulders. Bicycles must be small enough for the rider to stop, support it with one foot on the ground, and restart safely. At night, bicycles must be equipped with a white headlight or white light attached to the rider and visible from the front. Bicycles must also have a rear red reflector and white or yellow pedal reflectors. There must be a white or yellow reflector on the front of the bicycle visible from the side, and a red or white reflector on the rear of the bicycle visible from the side. All riders must have a permanent, regular seat. Bicycle passengers less than 40 lbs. must have a seat which retains them in place and protects them from moving parts.

Use of the Roadway (CVC 21202)
Bicycles traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable except: when passing, preparing for a left turn, to avoid hazards and dangerous conditions or if the lane is too narrow.

Bicycle Path Crossing (CVC 231.6)
A “bicycle path crossing” is the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of a bike path where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles. Or any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for bicycle crossing by lines or other markings on the street surface.

Hitching Rides (CVC 21203)
Bicyclists may not hitch rides on vehicles.

Carrying Articles (CVC 21205)
Bicyclists may not carry items which keep them from using at least one hand upon the handlebars.

Motorized Bicycles (CVC 21207.5)
Motorized bicycles may not be used on bike paths or trails, bike lanes, or other bikeways.

Bicycle Lane Use (CVC 21208)
Bicyclists traveling slower than traffic must use bike lanes except when making a left turn, passing, or avoiding hazardous conditions.

Obstruction of Pedestrians (CVC 21210)
Bicyclists may not leave bicycles on their sides on the sidewalk or park bicycles in a manner which obstructs pedestrians.

Bikeway Obstruction (CVC 21211)
No one may stop on or park a bicycle on a bicycle path.

Helmets (CVC 21212)
Bicyclists and passengers under age 18 must wear an approved helmet when on a bicycle.

Direction of Travel (CVC 21650)
Bicyclists must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic.

3-Feet for Safety Act (CVC 21760)
When passing a bicyclist, drivers of motor vehicles must provide bicyclists with a three feet buffer between their motor vehicle and the bicyclist. If roadway conditions do not allow for a three feet buffer, the driver must slow down when passing a bicyclist.

Toll Bridges (CVC 23330)
Bicyclists may not cross a toll bridge unless permitted by signs.

Head Phones (CVC 27400)
Bicyclists may not wear earplugs in both ears or a headset covering both ears, except hearing aids.

City of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Applicable to Bicycles

Off-Street Automobile Parking Requirements  (LAMC 12.21 A.4)
Provides for a proportion of automobile parking requirements for qualifying residential and nonresidential projects or buildings be replaced with bicycle parking.

Bicycle Parking and Shower Facilities (LAMC 12.21 A.16)
Establishes minimum short- and long-term bicycle parking requirements for new residential and nonresidential developments and additions that increase the floor area of a building. Defines types of short- and long-term bicycle parking as well as describes bicycle parking design standards, siting requirements. and additional requirements and allowances.

Sidewalk Riding (LAMC 56.15)
Prohibits the riding of bicycles (or other human power devices) on sidewalks (bikeways or boardwalks) with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Disallows the riding of bicycles on Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

Bicyclist Anti-harassment (LAMC  45.96.02)
Prohibits physical assault, threats, and intentional distractions against people riding bicycles.

Bicycle Defined (LAMC 26.01a)
any device upon which a person may ride which is propelled in whole or in part by human power through a system of belts, chains, or gears and which has either two or three wheels…

REPEALED: Bicycle Licenses Required (LAMC 26.01)
Ordinance repealed on June 2, 2009. Bicycle licenses are no longer required in the City of Los Angeles. Please carry identification when riding a bicycle and be sure children have identification as well in the form of an identification bracelet, sticker in their helmet, or bicycle registration with a private firm. In addition there are various ways of identifying your bicycle in the event it is stolen, photos and making a note of the serial number as well as including an identifier in the seat tube of the bicycle.

REPEALED: Sale of Bicycles (LAMC 80.75)
Prohibits the sale or rental of bicycles from any public or private property which is not the place of business of a duly licensed bicycle dealer. Update: Section 80.75: Sale of Vehicles or Bicycles – Where Prohibited, has been Repealed by Ord No. 173,945.

Stolen Bicycles

If your bike is stolen:

  • Contact the police and file a report. Sometimes they will try to discourage you from filing a theft report, but insist on it. See the Community Alert Notification for additional tips.
  • Register your stolen bike using Bike Index.
  • Contact your insurance agent. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, your bike should be covered if the value exceed the deductible.
  • Scour Craigslist, eBay, and the Penny Saver for any bike that matches your bike.
  • Don’t just look in your neighborhood. Thieves will often move a bike out of the area where it is less likely to be recognized or hold it for a few weeks, until the heat is off.
  • Visit local bike shops in your area and ask them to be on the lookout for your bike. Thieves will often take a stolen bike into a shop for repairs or to try to sell it.
  • Check out garage sales, make friends with street vendors in your area, and tell everyone you know to keep an eye open for someone riding your bike or parked on the street.
  • If you find your bike, whether online or in person, call the police and let them deal with it. While there are many stories of people who’ve recovered their own bikes, there are just as many of people who’ve gotten in over their heads. No matter what your bike cost, your safety is worth more.

Abandoned Bicycles

To report an abandoned bicycle that needs to be removed:

Submit a ‘Service Request‘ with the Bureau of Street Services following these easy steps:

  1. The first page of the Service Request form asks for “Service Type.” Select “Other” and click “Next.”
  2. On the “Location & Contact” page, enter the closest address to the abandoned bike and in the text box provided below describe the location of the bike rack or street sign post the abandoned bike is attached to. Be as specific as possible.
  3. After completing the “Location & Contact” page, in the text box provided on “Additional Info” page write that there is an abandoned bicycle you would like removed. Enter any additional comments you have and click the “Submit” button.
  4. You should receive a confirmation message from the Bureau of Street Services regarding your request.

By reporting abandoned bicycles, you directly contribute to increasing the supply of bicycle parking available to all of us. If you see a bicycle that has obviously been abandoned, take a moment to report it. You can use the same process to report bikeways that need maintenance.

Register Your Bicycle

To register your bike:

Visit BikeIndex.org, a free, community-driven service stores your bike’s identifying information to make sure it’s available when you most need it. Once listed, it can be identified in just seconds by any bike shop, pawn shop, police department or private buyer using the Bike Index database.

Disclaimer: This registry is purely a community effort, and not affiliated with law enforcement. If your bike is stolen, you should always report it to the local police first.

If a bike is stolen, refer to the Stolen Bicycles section above for more tips.