California sidewalk cycling laws

When I linked out to Mr Roadshow’s sidewalk cycling column yesterday, I wanted to make my post a little more informative by listing out the sidewalk cycling rules in the various Bay Area cities.

Bikes May Use Sidewalk - Hamilton Avenue Campbell California

I happen to know that sidewalk cycling is allowed in San Jose, banned in all of Campbell, and prohibited in Palo Alto’s Central Business District, but beyond that my knowledge is a patchwork of incomplete knowledge.

Christopher Kidd of Alta Planning in Oakland, however, compiled a statewide list of 535 local jurisdictions (counties and cities) and their sidewalk cycling rules.

Palo Alto no bicycles on sidewalk in the Business District
California state law generally allows sidewalk cycling, but allows local authorities to restrict the practice. Kidd found that 41% of local jurisdictions make no mention of sidewalk cycling in their city and county code, while another eight percent explicitly permit sidewalk cycling. Hence, 49% of surveyed cities and counties permit unrestricted cycling on their sidewalks. (Somebody points out that some of these areas have no sidewalks, but those cities are not listed).

Another 32% ban cycling in the “Central Business District” (CBD), although definitions of a CBD might vary. About half of these local codes use the CVC definition of a business district; the other half uses a local definition of a CBD.

Jessica Simpson rides a bicycle on the sidewalk

Other variations are sidewalk cycling allowed everywhere only by minors (two percent), and six percent ban cycling in the business district for everybody except minors.

So what about the San Francisco Bay Area? Where is sidewalk cycling allowed, and where is it prohibited? Chris created a document highlighting this region’s sidewalk cycling laws, too. Thank you to Christopher Kidd for this.


  1. @rubin110: Ah yes, the Contra Costa Canal Trail “detour” at Taylor Blvd in Pleasant Hill. The city is just about to unveil a bunch of roadway crossing upgrades along that trail ( but unfortunately Taylor Blvd is not among them. I think that the long range plan is to have a shorter crossing over Taylor on the other side of the canal, but for the time being the official route is for folks to head over to the crosswalk at the intersection with Mercury Way. I’m not sure who is responsible for those condescending signs, but the irony is that more and more people are now using the trail as a commute or shopping route, not just for recreation.

  2. Thanks for the coverage, Richard! A few points of clarification:

    For the 6% of cities you mentioned last, they ban all sidewalk riding in the CBD but allow only minors on the sidewalk in all other places.

    19% of cities have an explicit ban on sidewalk riding in all locations for all riders.

    For the CVC definition of “business district”, it’s informative to dig deeper than CVC code 235. CVC code 240 defines what is considered a business use, which includes “All churches, apartments, hotels, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings”. Essentially, the CVC defines as a business district every street in which less than half of the buildings are single-family homes. A broad definition indeed.

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