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Do Bicyclists in California Have to Obey Traffic Laws?

Cyclists in California must follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Under California law, anyone riding a bicycle on any road “is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” (CVC Sections 21200-21212). So, at any time you’re on a bicycle and sharing the road with cars, trucks, or other motor vehicles, ride like you would if you were driving your car.

Obeying traffic laws on your bicycle can prevent an accident from happening in the first place. That said, you can do everything right and still end up injured by a reckless or distracted driver. Even so, because you were obeying the law, you can protect what you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit by limiting your fault for the accident.

Cyclist Liability & Comparative Negligence

In California, comparative negligence (also called comparative fault) is the notion that when an accident occurs, both parties share a certain amount of responsibility for what happened.

When a court determines a defendant is more at fault for causing an accident than the plaintiff, the latter can win damages. Should the court determine both parties are equally at fault, no damages may be awarded.

For a bicycle accident case in California, injured plaintiffs must prove that the motorist’s negligence overwhelmingly contributed to the accident that caused them injury. In other words, were it not for the motorist’s negligence, the accident might not have even happened or been so severe.

Obeying Traffic Laws Affects Comparative Negligence

There are many factors that go into determining each side’s share of negligence for an accident. For both parties in a bicycle accident lawsuit, however, obeying the rules of the road ranks high among these factors.

If a bicyclist is following every traffic law applicable to them, they probably have a better chance of recovering damages if the motorist who hit them was looking at their cell phone or ran a red light. If, however, the bicyclist failed to stop at a stop sign while another motorist was lawfully passing through the intersection, a greater amount of negligence might fall on the bicyclist for causing the accident.


If you are riding your bicycle, be sure to follow the rules of the road. Doing so may be inconvenient or make your ride more difficult, but it can protect you from becoming injured at all or protect your injury claim when another driver is responsible for an accident.

If you are injured in a bicycle accident, reach out to Smolich and Smolich law. After evaluating your claim, we can offer options to help you move forward and pursue compensation for your injuries.

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