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Bicycling on Sidewalks: Misconceptions and Advisories. Also: Crosswalks, and “What Pedestrians and Bicyclists Want Each Other to Know”

2023 update – Before checking out the sidewalks and crosswalks info in this post (i.e., Steps 1-6 below the first photo):

“Get off the sidewalk!” then “Get on the sidewalk!” People who bike hear both. Is it legal to bike on sidewalks? Safe? And what about crosswalks?

Below, take 6 steps to better understanding—for people who bike, and for those who walk and drive too.

Step 1. Listen to a 90-second audio about biking on sidewalks.

The audio, written and recorded by Mari Lynch and produced by Guy Lasnier, was broadcast on KUSP Independent Public Radio on 1/14/15. (For more of Mari’s bicycling-related audios, click here.)

Step 2. Read the related article about biking on sidewalks in the Monterey County seat and elsewhere.

Click here for “Bicycling on sidewalks: misconceptions and advisories,” by Frank Henderson and Mari Lynch  (Salinas Californian, Oct 15, 2014, pg 2).

Caution! Besides the fact that at driveways and intersections, drivers typically are not expecting a bicyclist coming off a sidewalk, people on sidewalks or entering crosswalks are often hidden from view by motor vehicles (and that’s not limited to big trucks – 

The 10/15/14 Californian story points out that California law leaves biking on sidewalks up to local jurisdictions. Here’s the Salinas sidewalk ordinance referred to in that story.

Step 3. Learn what the local ordinances are where you ride.

As highlighted in Bicycling Monterey’s “Local ordinances” post, regulations about bicycles on sidewalks vary around Monterey County, as is true for other California counties too. Learn what the local ordinances are for Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Gonzales, Greenfield, King City, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Sand City, Seaside, and Soledad, and for unincorporated Monterey County. How? Refer to “Bicycling Monterey’s “Riding Skills, Safety, and CA Bike Laws—for Children, Teens, and Adults” section. For outside Monterey County, learn about local ordinances by contacting local police departments or local sheriff’s office, or your local city manager’s office or a county supervisor.

For a related post, see “Confusion abounds: Biking on sidewalks, in Carmel and elsewhere in Monterey County.

Step 4. Learn about crosswalk laws and safety

In most cases, crosswalks are for people who are walking, not for people biking. And stop your bicycle before the crosswalk, not in it (CVC 21455). If you are on wheels—unless you’re in a wheelchair—you do not have pedestrian status. If you want the legal rights of pedestrians, i.e., to travel in a crosswalk, then your best bet is to hop off and walk your bike through the crosswalk.

For an exception, see North Fremont, Monterey.

Related update: The California Bicycle Coalition has stated, “It’s often safer for people on bikes to cross an intersection during the pedestrian walk signal if that phase differs from the green light for cars. The OmniBike Bill [AB 1909] makes this safe choice legal.” On September 16, 2022,  California Assembly Bill 1909 (Friedman-Haney-Portantino) was signed by the Governor. Among its bike-related provisions, it amends CA Vehicle Code Section 21456. See details, as well as when this and other bike-related provisions of AB 1909 become effective: 

Also be aware that coming off a sidewalk into a roadway requires extra caution, as one Monterey County dad was sadly reminded. Questions? Feel free to contact Bicycling Monterey.

For more on this topic, see “Is the Crosswalk a Safe Way for a Bicycle Rider to Cross the Street?” from Bike Walk Alameda’s Dr. Sprocket. Also see Bicycling Monterey’s “Riding Skills, Safety, and CA Bike Laws—for Children, Teens, and Adults.”

Step 5. Play nice! Share sidewalks and crosswalks 

Bike polite, and with a mindfulness about the safety of others as well as your own safety. “Share the sidewalk” and “share the crosswalk” education is needed for people who bike or walk, just as “share the road” education is needed for people who bike or drive. It’s a matter of both courtesy and safety.

Richard Masoner shared in his Cyclelicious blog on 6/2/16,  “What Pedestrians and Bicyclists Want Each Other to Know,” the work of Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s Elderly and Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee. Please take time to read that valuable brochure shared in Rich’s post.

Step 6. Watch for signs on school campuses, private property, etc.

Shopping centers, school campuses, and other property apart from public streets—such as the Monterey Peninsula College campus, pictured below—may prohibit bikes on sidewalks.
For a related post, see “Where the plazas are in the City of Monterey.”


As also alerted in the info shared above, watch for “no bicycling on sidewalks” signs on public property too. For example, in the City of Monterey, there are such signs on Calle Principal (pictured directly below)…


and Alvarado Street (pictured below).

And in the City of Salinas, watch for such signs too, e.g., on Main Street in Old Town.
Top photo in this post and all photos below were taken in Salinas, California. Bottom photo courtesy of Ron Dillender. All other photos by Mari Lynch.

Signal intersection in Salinas - 10 May 2011 - 006 (2)

Cerney mural at Monterey County Youth Center

Bros in Oldtown Salinas - March 2014

Fixie girls in Oldtown Salinas March 2014 - at Yangtse's - also burrito riders

Cerney - Steps to a Healthier Salinas

2 teen boys Alisal at Madeira

Bike mirrors - in the Alisal


Gabe Alvizo en route hm from wk - fun 063Salinas High burrito ride

Salinas - 1st Fri Music 1st Awakenings 2nd

Hi vis tape on bike trailer on Alisal St, East Salinas Oct 6 2013

MYO Salinas - Bike rack needs

Burrito Ride 5-19-13 Salinas - gathering

Salinas Methodist - Oct 2012 - IMG_2088

Okerblom - East Salinas - 15 Apr 2012 - corner

Sanborn Plaza - Bike Month poster 2014IMG_3017 (1024x1010)

Taco El Jaliscience at Madeira and Alisal


Salinas - Visitor info & Steve Nichols

DUC - Robt Reyes at Bobcat - 10 May 2011 - 045 (3)

Bike parking very closeby at Taqueria La Arrolladora - Del Monte and Sanborn

DUC - Mike Cortez on Main in Oldtown 059 (3)IMG_1348

Salinas bike map

Gather round 2012-03-02_16-06-22_6 (2)

Bottom photo of Monterey Park Elementary School Cycling Club, South Salinas, courtesy of former principal Ron Dillender. All other photos by Mari Lynch.

Beyond bikes on sidewalks in Salinas, you may also be interested in other Bicycling Monterey resources and stories about Salinas. Here’s a sampling:
  1. What to Do in Salinas, the Monterey County Seat (long web page of Salinas tips!)
  2. KUSP: Bikes are taking to the streets–and it’s not where you might expect
  3. KUSP Playlist: Bike scene in Monterey County
  4. Vacation, staycation: Sixteen sweet spots in the Monterey County seat
  5. Ciclovia Salinas
  6. Open Streets and Equity: Ciclovia Salinas at the National Open Streets Summit
  7. Ciclovia Salinas Summer Youth Internships
  8. The Alisal / East Salinas: Pleasures, Protests, and Promise
  9. Downtown Salinas Church Asks: What would happen if we changed the ways we moved around?
  10. Salinas Youth Leading the Way in Monterey County Bike Community Firsts
  11. Campfires and Flat Tires: Warwick Sisters on Keeping Up with Dad
  12. Miguél Angel Frias, 1st Salinas Youth Poet Laureate
  13. SPC Vilmar Gilarza Hernandez
  14. In memory of Santiago Ramirez
  15. Remembering Kyle Beardshear
  16. Shawn Carden, BMX Racer
  17. Spinning Spokes and Telling Jokes: Fixed Riding in the 831
  18. Salinas Bike Scene: Something for everyone
  19. Bike Salinas: Where are street improvements needed?
  20. Bike to School: In Monterey County and elsewhere
  21. Monterey Park Cycling: For South Salinas kids, “Your community is your classroom,” and you get to class by bike!
  22. Little Bellas at Toro Park, Salinas
  23. Salinas Youth and Others for Bikes: Bikes Make Life Better
  24. Salinas 10-Mile Family Bike Ride for a Better Community
  25. Biking between Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula
  26. Keeping the Local Bike Scene Cool: It’s a multi-pronged effort – and Happy Bike Month from Salinas PD
  27. Salinas PAL Bicycle Safety Rodeo
  28. Salinas Criterium
  29. Salinas High School Cowboy Racing Mountain Bike Team
  30. Awesome Bike Coaches of Monterey County
  31. California High School Mountain Biking State Championships
  32. Excelente! Bike advocacy wins 6 of 10 excellence awards
  33. California Rodeo Kiddie Capers Parade
  34. Salinas Bike Party: A Courteous Social Bike Run
  35. Salinas Burrito Bike Rides: When car culture meets bike culture, fun ensues! – Organized by Deadend Magazine

For over a decade, the Bicycling Monterey site and projects have been provided as a public service. Volunteers and contributions are welcome and appreciated.

This post was published on 16 October 2014. One or more changes last made to this post on 13 June 2023.

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