Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road

A summary of California Vehicle Code and UC Davis Traffic & Parking | Code laws and regulations for bicyclists*

A Note On Fines for Traffic Violations

Fines for most citations issued for violations by bicyclists in Yolo County (including UC Davis) are $200 and up. The fines are established by the courts and neither the campus nor THE city has any say in those amounts. However, under a new program begun in October, 2011, University police officers may offer a violator the option of taking an on-line “bike traffic school” in lieu of paying the ticket. There is a $70 fee for taking the course. More information about the traffic school option may be found at: In addition, anyone who simply wants to go through the on-line traffic school materials for their own instruction may do so without paying any fee.

*Some of the state law information here is excerpted from the California Bicycle Coalition website with added comments from the UC Davis Bicycle Coordinator in italics. Learn more
CVC = “California Vehicle Code”
UCDT&P = “UC Davis Traffic and Parking Code”

Rights and Responsibilities

Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. CVC 21200. This is the most important rule for cyclists in the Vehicle Code. It can be summarized as “Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules” for cyclists and motorists.

Among other things, this means that cyclists must obey all traffic lights, traffic signs and other regulatory signs and pavement markings. The most common violation seen on campus is failure to stop at stop signs. CVC 22450, 21453.

Where You Can Ride

  • Roadway | Bicyclists traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as safely possible, except when passing, preparing for a left turn, avoiding hazards, or if the lane is too narrow. CVC 21202. This does not mean a cyclist should always “hug the curb”. In fact, if a lane is too narrow to share with motorists (typically a lane less than 14’ wide is too narrow), the cyclist may use the full lane.
  • Bicycle Lanes | On a roadway with a bike lane, bicyclists traveling slower than traffic must use the bike lane except when making a left turn, passing, avoiding hazardous conditions, or approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. CVC 21208. Don’t hesitate to leave the bike lane as needed.
  • With the Direction of Travel | Bicyclists must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic, except when passing, making a legal left turn, riding on a one-way street, riding on a road that is too narrow, or when the right side of the road is closed due to road construction. CVC 21650. A major cause of bicycle vs. vehicle collisions is caused by wrong-way riding.
  • Sidewalks | Individual cities and counties control whether bicyclists may ride on sidewalks. CVC 21206. On campus, sidewalk riding is prohibited everywhere except on the west side of A St. between Russell Blvd. and Shields Ave. because A St. is one-way only (northbound), thereby prohibiting southbound cycling on the road. UCDT&P 8.05(b). In the city of Davis, sidewalk riding is allowed everywhere except in the downtown business core.
  • Roundabouts | On approach to a roundabout, yield to traffic already in the roundabout. Travel through the roundabout in a counterclockwise direction. CVC 21800.
  • Landscaped Areas | Riding on landscaped areas is prohibited. UCDT&P 8.08(d).

Equipping Your Bicycle

  • Brakes | Bicycles must be equipped with a brake that allows an operator to execute a one-braked-wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement. CVC 21201(a). A “fixed gear” bike with no brakes does not meet this requirement no matter how skilled the cyclist.
  • Handlebars | Handlebars must not be higher than the rider’s shoulders. CVC 21201(b).
  • Bicycle size | Bicycles must be small enough for the rider to stop, support it with one foot on the ground, and start safely. CVC 21201(c).
  • Lights | At night a white headlight visible from the front must be attached to the bicycle or the bicyclist. CVC 21201(d) and CVC 21201(e).
  • Reflectors | At night bicycles must have the following reflectors:
    • Visible from the back: red reflector
    • Visible from the front & back: white or yellow reflector on each pedal or on the bicyclist’s shoes or ankles
    • Visible from the side: 1) white or yellow reflector on the front half of the bicycle and 2) a red or white reflector on each side of the back half of the bike. These reflectors are not required if the bike has reflectorized front and back tires. CVC 21201(d).        
    • A red rear light provides much greater visibility. The lights and reflector requirements also apply during foggy conditions.
  • Seats | All riders must have a permanent, regular seat, unless the bicycle is designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat. Bicycle passengers weighing less than 40 lbs. must have a seat which retains them in place and protects them from moving parts. CVC 21204. In other words, no “hitching a ride” on the handlebars or rear rack.
  • Bicycle Registration | All bikes operated on the UC Davis campus must be equipped with a current University issued bicycle license available through the Bicycle Program with Transportation Services. UCDT&P 6.01.
    • Bicycle registration not only gives you a record of the bicycle's serial number, but it's also a valuable too to reduce bike theft. A registered bicycle can be easily looked up with BikeIndex to determine if it has been stolen. 

Operating Your Bicycle

  • Hand Signals | No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal…in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.” CVC 22107.
  • Helmets | Bicyclists and bicycle passengers under age 18 must wear an approved helmet when riding on a bicycle. CVC 21212. Always a good idea, regardless of age.
  • Headphones | Bicyclists may not wear earplugs in both ears or a headset covering both ears. Hearing aids are allowed. CVC 27400.
  • Alcohol and Drugs | Bicyclists may not ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. CVC 21200.5.
  • Hitching Rides | Bicyclists may not hitch rides on vehicles. CVC 21203.
  • Carrying Articles | Bicyclists may not carry items which keep them from using at least one hand upon the handlebars. CVC 21205. In other words, riding “no hands” is not prohibited.
  • Pedestrians | Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within marked crosswalks or within unmarked crosswalks at intersections. Bicyclists must also yield the right-of-way to totally or partially blind pedestrians carrying a predominantly white cane or using a guide dog. CVC 21950 and CVC 21963.
  • Parking | Bicyclists may not leave bicycles on their sides on the sidewalk or park bicycles in a manner which obstructs pedestrians. CVC 21210.
  • Parking on Campus | Bicycles may only be parked in designated bike parking areas and may only be locked to bike racks or other designated bike parking facilities. Bikes may be parked in assigned workplaces (e.g. office or lab) with permission of departmental chairperson. UCDT&P 7.01, 7.08, 7.09.

Click here to see the Complete California Vehicle Code

Click here to see the UC Davis Traffic and Parking Code