[Back to Know the Laws]
It’s important to know the laws that affect cyclists, and they vary by city. If one day you need to fight that improper citation, first look at the city’s municipal code! Sidewalk riding is a good example. In Los Angeles, for example, one can ride the sidewalk (taking due care), for example, but according to the Santa Monica municipal code sidewalk riding is prohibited (as is ‘coasting’ in a public garage, so take note – Santa Monica can hit you with a misdemeanor charge and a one-thousand dollar fine, according to Sec. 3.12.540c).
Under the West Hollywood municipal code, sidewalk riding is allowed, but only where no adjacent bike lane exists (and then only in the same direction as adjoining traffic but not to “endanger any person or property”). Culver City’s municipal code adds to the list any “any public school building, church, recreation center or playground.”
Beverly Hills municipal code prohibits sidewalk riding in any ‘business district,’ and the city uses the state law definition of ‘business district’: roadways where 50% of street frontage is actively used for commercial activities. But there’s much more to it than that.* You’re simply better off riding in the street, according to the LA Bike Blog, and we agree. Oh, and use that whole right-hand lane when you ride in Beverly Hills. It’s yours under California law.
Code inconsistency does not end with sidewalk riding, of course. Even Beverly Hills’s own municipal code conflicts with the state Vehicle Code’s ‘practicable’ language. We instruct riders to keep “as near the curb as possible,” which is not correct and not legal under the Vehicle Code (as explained on the Know the Law page) but it may earn you a ticket anyway in town if you’re not hugging the curb. Consistency seems too much in Beverly Hills, where the municipal code also still includes an ordinance requiring the licensing of bicycles, which is no longer enforceable anyway, and which other cities have already stricken.
Review the local ordinances (below) because they vary by jurisdiction and change with city boundaries regardless of whether conditions actually change. In all likelihood, you won’t even know you’ve crossed the boundary, so do take care to know both the vehicle code and local ordinances.
Beverly Hills Ordinance
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate, ride, or propel any bicycle, skateboard, roller skates or similar type device on the sidewalk in any business district [that portion of a highway and the property...where 50 percent or more of the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by buildings in use for business...]— BHMC Section 5-6-801
Prohibited in any park or recreational facility: Riding any bicycle, skateboard, roller skates, or similar type of device except where such activity is specially authorized by posted signs.— BHMC Section 8-1-4
The operator of a bicycle shall not carry another person on the bicycle upon any public street or highway [nor] … tow or draw any coaster or other vehicle or person on roller skates on a public street or highway.— BHMC Section 5-5-8
The operator of a bicycle shall operate such bicycle as near the curb as possible on any public street or highway. (Note: conflicts with CVC and good riding practice – Ed.)— BHMC Section 5-5-8
Culver City Ordinance
Unclaimed property in the possession of the Police Department shall be held by the Police Department for a period of at least four (4) months, except that bicycles shall be held for a period of at least three (3) months.— CCMC Sec. 3.04.300
Unclaimed [bicycles] shall be held for a period of at least three (3) months. Thereafter, unless otherwise provided by law, the Police Department shall transfer to the Chief of Police any such bicycle which is needed for use in a program designed to prevent juvenile delinquency; a record of such use or disposition shall be kept by the Chief.— CCMC Sec. 3.04.300
No person shall…propel in any manner any bicycle….upon any pedestrian walkway which the Council, by resolution, has specifically designated as reserved for pedestrian use only. Violation of this provision shall constitute a misdemeanor, subject to a fine not to exceed $1,000, 6 months in jail, or both.— CCMC Sec. 7.02.050
No person shall attach anything to or allow a bicycle, newsrack or any other article or thing to lean against a parking meter or a parking meter standard unless said meter or meter standard has been altered by the City or approved designee to include a bicycle rack…— CCMC Sec. 7.03.535
A person shall not operate, ride or be on any bicycle upon which more persons are riding than the number for which such bicycle is designed and equipped.— CCMC Sec. 7.04.215
Persons operating bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.— CCMC Sec. 7.04.230
No person shall park a bicycle upon a street other than upon the roadway against the curb or upon a sidewalk in a rack to support the bicycle or against a building or at the curb in such manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrian traffic.— CCMC Sec. 7.04.240
Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.— CCMC Sec. 7.04.245
No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within any business district or upon the sidewalk adjacent to any public school building, church, recreation center or playground…— CCMC Sec. 7.04.250
A person shall not operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible at a distance of at least 100 feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a bicycle, any siren or whistle.— CCMC Sec. 7.04.305
Within the limits of any public park it shall be unlawful for any person…to leave a bicycle lying on the ground or paving, or set against trees, or… leave a bicycle in a place other than a bicycle rack when such is provided and there is space available…— CCMC Sec. 9.10.055
Los Angeles Ordinance
A person shall not: assault or attempt to assault, threaten to physically injure or attempt to injure, or physically injure, either by words, vehicle, or other object, a Bicyclist; intentionally distract or attempt to distract or attempt to force a Bicyclist off a street because of, in whole or in part, the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist. (Los Angeles)— LAMC Chapter IV Article 5.10 Sec. 45.96.02
A person operating a bicycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle other than upon a firmly attached seat to the rear of the operator, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle other than as above authorized.— LAMC Chapter VIII Sec. 80.27. Riding On Bicycles
It shall be unlawful for any person to attach anything or to allow a bicycle, newsrack or any other article or thing to lean against a parking meter or a parking meter standard.— Chapter VIII Sec. 88.10. Parking Meters and Parking Meter Standards
Bicycle parked – impeding pedestrian traffic prohibited. Fine: $48. With late penalty: $96. With 2nd late penalty: $121.— Fees (Sec. 21210)
No person shall ride, operate or use a bicycle, unicycle, skateboard, cart, wagon, wheelchair, rollerskates, or any other device moved exclusively by human power, on a sidewalk, bikeway or boardwalk in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.— Chapter V Sec. 56.15. Bicycle Riding – Sidewalks
The 1.5 mile walkway surrounding Lake Balboa in Lake Balboa Park shall be designated as a “pedestrian walk only.” No person shall roller blade, roller skate, skate board, or ride or drive any bicycle, scooter or similar vehicle upon the designated walkway….No person shall ride a bicycle, scooter, skate, skateboard, or other wheeled device on any pier.— Chapter IV Sec. 63.44. Regulations Affecting Park And Recreation Areas
Santa Monica Ordinance
It shall be unlawful to ride a bicycle or to coast in any vehicle upon any public sidewalk, except [bike paths]… It shall be unlawful to ride a bicycle or to coast in any vehicle in any public parking structure.— SMMC 3.12.540
No operator of any bicycle or motorcycle shall carry any other person upon the bar, handle bars or tank of any such vehicle, and no person shall so ride upon any such vehicle.— SMMC 3.12.580
It shall be unlawful for any person to interfere with a community event…with the intent to cause interference [by] riding a bicycle or skateboard, or using any similar device through, between, with, or among participants, vehicles, or animals…— SMMC 4.68.100
West Hollywood Ordinance
It is unlawful for any person to ride or operate a bicycle on or over any sidewalk…when [sic] there is a designated bicycle lane in the adjoining street…[B]icycle riders riding or operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall travel in the same direction as traffic in the adjoining lane of traffic, shall yield to pedestrians and shall not ride in a wanton or reckless manner as to endanger any person or property.— WHMC Sec. 15.53.010
A person shall not operate a motor vehicle in the bicycle lane except to cross at a permanent or temporary driveway, or for the purpose of parking a vehicle where parking is permitted or where the vehicle is disabled.— WHMC Sec. 10.07.070
*Sidewalk riding in Beverly Hills is a culpability minefield. Rather than codify the law regarding sidewalk riding right in our municipal code, according to the city’s own use districts say, Beverly Hills instead shoulders the work onto the Vehicle Code, which in turn shoulders the risk onto the cyclists. You try to figure out what ‘business district’ means:
In determining whether a highway is within a business or residence district, the following limitations shall apply and shall qualify the definitions in Sections 235 and 515: (a) No building shall be regarded unless its entrance faces the highway and the front of the building is within 75 feet of the roadway. (b) Where a highway is physically divided into two or more roadways only those buildings facing each roadway separately shall be regarded for the purpose of determining whether the roadway is within a district. (c) All churches, apartments, hotels, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings, other than schools, shall be deemed to be business structures. (d) A highway or portion of a highway shall not be deemed to be within a district regardless of the number of buildings upon the contiguous property if there is no right of access to the highway by vehicles from the contiguous property. – CVC section 240
Oh, are you not a land use attorney? You didn’t do a field survey before deciding to ride on the sidewalk? Who can blame you; the city owes it to the public to be clear and consistent when codifying the laws. So cyclists, heed the simple rule: when in Beverly Hills, ride in the street, not the sidewalk, and use that whole right-hand lane. It’s yours under California law.
A great safe-riding resource is Bob Mionske’s Bicycling and the Law, which offers an overview of the historic legal context that assures us a place on the public roadway, but also includes a great discussion of liability. Let’s hope it doesn’t come in handy!
[Disclaimer: some laws have been abridged here for readability. Consult the actual text of the law or ordinance if in doubt, or in cases where liability will need to be established according to law.]