Consider this morning’s news:
“Katie Utehs @katieutehs2h - All lanes of eastbound 80 blocked for bicycle vs. collision at University. @ktvupic.twitter.com/iIHtmZJ8bw“
Is it legal to ride a bike on the freeways of California?
No, not on the very urbanized part in Berkeley I don’t think.
But bike riding is legal on other certain stretches of freeway.
“We’re not talking about temporarily closing down a freeway to cars on Father’s Day like they did in Pasadena a while back, to the horror of Rob Anderson.
And we’re not talking about an illegal bicycle romp in traffic the way the Crimanimalz do it on the 405.
We’re talking about you legally riding your bike on the right side of some of California’s 4000 miles of freeway.
Well, according to the California Department of Transportation, maker of melty orange and blue cupcakes, sí, se puede. Yes, you can ride your bike on about 1000 miles of California freeway.
Click to expand
For proof, check out this white sign in Marin County on the 101 South. You see? It says “BICYCLES MUST EXIT” so that means, assuming you didn’t ignore any “Bicycles Prohibited” sign, it’s all good for you to be on this stretch of freeway. Q.E.D. Res Ipsa Loquitur.
Here’s the CalTrans version:
Of the more than 4,000 miles of freeways in California, about 1,000 miles are open to bicyclists. These open sections are usually in rural areas where there is no alternate route. California Vehicle Code Section 21960 says Caltrans and local agencies may prohibit bicyclists from traveling on freeways under their jurisdiction and that they must erect signs stating the prohibition. There are no signs permitting bicyclists on freeways. When a bicyclist is legally traveling on a freeway, he/she may be directed off the freeway at the next off-ramp by a sign that says “Bicycles Must Exit.” The freeway will be posted at the next on-ramp with a sign that says “Bicycles Prohibited.”
And here’s the Vehicle Code:
21960. (a) The Department of Transportation and local authorities,
by order, ordinance, or resolution, with respect to freeways,
expressways, or designated portions thereof under their respective
jurisdictions, to which vehicle access is completely or partially
controlled, may prohibit or restrict the use of the freeways,
expressways, or any portion thereof by pedestrians, bicycles or other
nonmotorized traffic or by any person operating a motor-driven
cycle, motorized bicycle, or motorized scooter. A prohibition or
restriction pertaining to bicycles, motor-driven cycles, or motorized
scooters shall be deemed to include motorized bicycles; and no
person may operate a motorized bicycle wherever that prohibition or
restriction is in force. Notwithstanding any provisions of any
order, ordinance, or resolution to the contrary, the driver or
passengers of a disabled vehicle stopped on a freeway or expressway
may walk to the nearest exit, in either direction, on that side of
the freeway or expressway upon which the vehicle is disabled, from
which telephone or motor vehicle repair services are available.
(b) The prohibitory regulation authorized by subdivision (a) shall
be effective when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are
erected upon any freeway or expressway and the approaches thereto.
If any portion of a county freeway or expressway is contained within
the limits of a city within the county, the county may erect signs on
that portion as required under this subdivision if the ordinance has
been approved by the city pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section
1730 of the Streets and Highways Code.
(c) No ordinance or resolution of local authorities shall apply to
any state highway until the proposed ordinance or resolution has
been presented to, and approved in writing by, the Department of
(d) An ordinance or resolution adopted under this section on or
after January 1, 2005, to prohibit pedestrian access to a county
freeway or expressway shall not be effective unless it is supported
by a finding by the local authority that the freeway or expressway
does not have pedestrian facilities and pedestrian use would pose a
safety risk to the pedestrian.