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Traffic police officers frequently erroneously cite bicycle riders involved in traffic accidents for violating Vehicle Code 21650.1.

It is true that, under California law, generally, if someone is riding a bicycle on a roadway, he or she must ride in the same direction as motor vehicles (Vehicle Code 21650.1). 

But sidewalks are not legally considered part of the roadway (Vehicle Code 555).  Thus, the Vehicle Code does not prohibit the operation of bicycles on any sidewalk because they are not part of the roadway. 

Accordingly, cited bicyclists, in fact, often did not violate Section 21650.1, even though they were riding against the flow and direction of traffic along and within a sidewalk.

Further, Vehicle Code 21650(g) states that on all highways, a vehicle shall be driven on the right half of the roadway, but not bicycles driven on any sidewalk or along any crosswalk where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance.”

But if, where the accident occurred, there is no local, county or state ordinance that makes it unlawful to ride a bicycle along a crosswalk or sidewalk, the bicycle rider has a right to ride his or her bicycle on the sidewalk (VC 555) or crosswalk (VC 275).

See also Spriesterbach v. Holland (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 255 (Riding a bicycle on a sidewalk against the direction of traffic is not illegal unless there is a city or county ordinance making it illegal. Rationale: A sidewalk is not a "shoulder of the highway").

Therefore, it is sometimes the car driver, and not the bicyclist, who should be cited in these types of accidents.

Disclaimer: This is a general article.  This area of the law can be highly complex.  Many issues can arise that were not discussed.  This article is not to be relied on a legal advice.  If you desire legal advice, consult or retain a lawyer regarding the specifics of your situation. Further Disclaimer.

 Author: Attorney Matthew B. Tozer
Copyright 2012

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