Last month, I provided a synopsis of California’s sidewalk bike-riding laws.
The conclusion from that post was that the legality of sidewalk riding changes from city to city.
A corollary question I often receive has to do with the direction of sidewalk riding. In other words, if traffic is driving in one direction, is it permissible for a cyclist to ride on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic?
The 2013 case of Spriesterbach v. Holland answers this question.
In that case, Holland was pulling out of a shopping center parking lot, preparing to turn right. Her field of vision was trained to the left, waiting for a break in the traffic so she could merge. That’s when Spriesterbach approached on the sidewalk from Holland’s right. Holland didn’t see Spriesterbach because he was riding his bike against the flow of traffic. The collision was devastating.
Spriesterbach was injured, and when he sued Holland, Holland defended on the grounds that Spriesterbach broke the law by riding his bike against the flow of traffic.
The law says it’s illegal for cars to drive against the flow of traffic. Since bicycles have all the obligations and responsibilities that vehicles have, Holland argued that Spriesterbach was liable for his own injuries when he rode his bike against the flow of traffic.
The Court disagreed. It dissected the Vehicle Code provision at issue, and explained that when the Code requires cars “on the highway” to travel in one direction, that does not apply to the sidewalk.
A sidewalk and a highway are two very different areas of the roadway. The Court did note that it is illegal for bicyclists to ride against the flow of traffic while actually on the roadway. But a sidewalk is different, and nothing in the Vehicle Code forbids a bicyclist from riding on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic.
Now, even though it’s legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk, against the flow of traffic, is it a good idea?
Sidewalk riding is very dangerous, and those dangers are amplified when riding against the flow of traffic. I tell all my clients who ride to steer clear of the sidewalk, and to never ride against the flow of traffic.
I have had several client inquiries over the years involving facts very similar to those encountered by Spriesterbach. Drivers pulling out of parking lots almost never anticipate a bicyclist traveling from the right, against the flow of traffic.
Take these words of wisdom from the Rabbi Lawyer: Don’t risk it. Ride in the same direction as traffic, always. Do not ride your bike on the sidewalk, against the flow of traffic.
For questions about your case or your rights as a Los Angeles bicyclist or driver, please do not hesitate to call my office.