Is it Legal to Ride Your Bike on Los Angeles Sidewalks?
As with any question concerning the legality (and potential safety) of riding a bicycle anywhere in California, there are no cut-and-dry answers to that question. However, many people ask it because riding your bicycle on the sidewalk seems safer. You're away from traffic with a physical barrier between you and the cars that are rushing through LA's notoriously overcrowded roadways.
But there are other hazards to contend with when you ride your bicycle on the sidewalk in Los Angeles—most notably pedestrians. It may not even come into your mind but if you collide with a pedestrian while on your bicycle, both of you could be seriously hurt. Indeed, pedestrians have been killed by bicyclists in the recent past. So, while riding on the sidewalk may be appealing, in many cases, you (and those around you) may actually be safer riding your bicycle in the street or (especially) in designated bicycle lanes. However, some municipalities within what we would collectively call Los Angeles do allow individuals to ride their bicycles on the sidewalks and—at least in some cases—it does make sense.
The Complicated Reality of Bicycle Sidewalk Laws in Los Angeles
When deciding whether or not to allow bicyclists on the sidewalk in LA, the ruling bodies who make the laws and local regulations often place the safety of pedestrians as a priority (as they should). Because of this, the ability of a cyclist to take to the sidewalk (and the necessary actions they must take when doing so) are created with regard to pedestrian traffic flow. So, for example, a certain neighborhood may allow cyclists on the sidewalk almost anywhere else but they may restrict riders from using the sidewalk in busy pedestrian areas like business districts or recreational areas like parks. In addition, if a particular section of Los Angeles does allow bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk, it may place extra responsibility for the safety of pedestrians on the cyclist by mandating the use of audible signals when approaching foot traffic.
A great example of this complicated legal landscape exists in The City of Los Angeles itself. While technically, The City of Los Angeles allows riders to use the sidewalk, they can only do so if they ride with regard for the safety (and sanctity) of pedestrians and property. That wording places a legal "duty of care" on to the cyclists and increases the likelihood that they will be held at least partially responsible for any accidents in which they are involved.