Pursuant to section 21208(a) of the California Vehicle Code, you are permitted to ride outside of the designated bicycle lane “When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.” Does this mean that if traffic is gnarly it is a “hazardous condition” such that you can leave the bike lane, jump the curb and ride on the sidewalk? Well, that would be a question that only local law can answer.
California law (specifically California Vehicle Section 21113) allows local governments to make their own rules and regulations for the use of bicycles, skateboards, motorized bicycles and even roller skates on public property. That includes the regulation of riding bicycles on city sidewalks. SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12 forbids sidewalk bicycle riding, while Sec. 1007 states that "children under the age of 13 may ride a bicycle on any sidewalk except as otherwise posted". It is just too congested in this city to ride on the sidewalk.
As a bicycle accident attorney for over 20 years in San Francisco I have had cases where pedestrians were badly injured by cyclists riding on sidewalks to avoid traffic. These are tough cases and nobody likes to be on either side of these.
You can however, move out of the bike lane and take over the full lane of traffic if that will help you avoid debris or other hazardous conditions, pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 21208(a).
Note also that you most definitely cannot ride on a sidewalk to avoid riding in the same direction as traffic. California Vehicle Code section 21650.1. requires cyclists to ride in the same direction as vehicles that are required to be driven upon the roadway. So, don’t be lazy. Cross the street like a normal vehicle and get into the proper lane of traffic so that you are riding in the direction of traffic.
If you find yourself feeling really vulnerable or in danger and wanting to jump the curb and ride on the sidewalk for safety, try one of the following:
Bicycle Accident Client
Sally Morin proved to be an invaluable asset in my recent personal injury case. She is extremely knowledgeable regarding cyclist laws and works very hard to be sure that you are fairly compensated in every way that you deserve.
She or somebody from her excellent team was always available to assist me with any questions or concerns that arose throughout my case. I strongly recommend Sally and her team to anybody who wants no nonsense and no BS legal representation.
They will definitely be the first people that I call if any other legal situations arise.
Check out our bicycle accident page to learn more about how the personal injury process works.