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California Motorized Bicycle Laws

Riding a motorized bicycle in California takes obeying different laws than on a standard bike. Motorized bicycles are their own class of vehicle, with separate rules and regulations. It is important to learn and obey these laws if you wish to avoid legal trouble such as traffic infractions in San Jose. Following the rules could also help you prevent a serious accident.

What Is a Motorized Bicycle?

California Vehicle Code (CVC) 406 is the state law for motorized bicycles. This law uses the same language for both motorized bicycles and mopeds. It defines them as vehicles with two or three wheels, either propelled by human energy or electricity and a motor. California differentiates between two types of motorized bicycles and has unique laws for each.

You need a special driver’s license to operate Type A motorized bicycles in California. You will have to pass written and driving tests for your Class M1 or M2 driver’s license. If under the age of 21, you will also need to pass a basic rider education course. You must be 16 years or older to operate either type of motorized bicycle. You do not need a special license, or even a driver’s license, to operate a Type B motorized bicycle, however.

Do You Need to Register a Motorized Bicycle?

Type A motorized bicycles require license plates and vehicle registration in California. You must also meet the state’s auto insurance requirements. Type B motorized bicycles do not require insurance or license plates, but you must still register the vehicle. The Department of Motor Vehicles will give you a special license plate and an $18 identification card. If you operate an unregistered motorized bicycle, you could face penalties for committing a traffic offense.

Do You Have to Wear a Helmet on a Motorized Bicycle?

Yes, you must wear a helmet if operating a Type A or Type B motorized bicycle in California. California is one of a few states with universal helmet laws for motorcyclists. All motorcycle, motorized bicycle and moped riders must wear helmets that meet federal safety standards. These helmets have stickers from the Department of Transportation or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Riders on standard bicycles do not need to wear helmets unless they are 17 or younger.

Where Can You Ride a Motorized Bicycle?

California law prohibits the riding of motorized bicycles and mopeds on sidewalks. You must ride your motorized bicycle on the road, with the rest of the traffic, unless there is a designated bicycle lane. As a motorized bicycle rider, you must obey all traffic laws, including speed limits and rights-of-way. You must stop at red lights and obey other traffic signals. Two motorized bicyclists may ride abreast of one another, but may not ride in the same lane as motor vehicles.

You cannot take a motorized bicycle on any of the state’s freeways or highway systems. You may only ride them on city streets or private roadways. Ride in the right-hand lane, as close to the right side of the road as possible. You may only ride in the left lane if you are making a left turn, or if it is necessary to avoid debris on the side of the road. Other drivers must respect your space and leave at least three feet between their vehicle and yours at all times. If a driver infringes upon your rights, he or she could be liable for your accident.

If you or a loved one has been a victim in a bicycle accident with a vehicle, contact us to speak with an experienced accident attorney. At Henshaw & Henry, PC, our San Jose injury lawyers offer free consultations to explore your legal options.