In short: no, but it’s usually a good idea to do so. If you’re moving at the speed of traffic, you can take the lane. Vehicle Code 21202 requires that cyclists traveling “at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.”
There are four main types of bicycle lanes that can be found in California. These include:
- Class I Bicycle Lanes: These are dedicated, fully separated bike lanes that are physically separated from vehicle traffic by a curb or other physical barrier. Class I bike lanes offer the highest level of protection for cyclists and are often found in urban areas or on busy roads. Where possible, it’s a good idea to plan your route to maximize the use of Class 1 lanes.
- Class II Bicycle Lanes: These are striped bike lanes that are marked off with painted lines and are not physically separated from vehicle traffic. Class II bike lanes are commonly found on less busy roads or in residential areas. Be sure to watch out for cars making right turns through the bike lane or vehicles dropping off passengers.
- Class III Bicycle Lanes: These are marked bike routes that do not have dedicated lanes for bikes. Cyclists share the road with vehicles and are expected to follow the same rules of the road. Class III bike routes may have signs or pavement markings to indicate the route, but there is no separation between bikes and vehicles. It’s good to remember that bikes are still required to stop at stop signs and local police may ticket cyclists for running stop signs in residential areas.
- Shared-Use Paths: These are paths that are designated for use by both bicycles and pedestrians. Shared-use paths are often found in parks or along greenbelts and are separated from vehicle traffic by a physical barrier. While bikes can ride in shared-use paths, make sure to travel at a slow speed when doing so. These paths often have pedestrians and children learning to ride bikes that can change directions suddenly.