Bike Traffic Ticket FAQs
The best way to learn about the law and your rights and responsibilities while bicycling is to sign up for one of our popular free Urban Cycling Workshops.
How much is this ticket going to cost?
Traffic citations do not include a price tag when they're issued – this comes later when the ticket is filed at the traffic court. The fine schedule for citations is set locally by the S.F. Superior Court Traffic Division and the table of penalties changes so frequently that the court does not publish it. You can request a fine schedule in person at 850 Bryant St., Room 145, but the court will only stand by those fees for the day you pick it up – tomorrow it could all change.
On the last occasion we checked, a "failure to stop for a stop sign" citation cost between $100 and $200 for a violation on a bicycle and $200 to $300 for a violation in a motor vehicle. If you call the S.F. Superior Court Traffic Division, you can find out what the fine is for your specific citation: (415) 553-9400.
I would like to protest my ticket.
Set a court date and report for the hearing to make your case (see Got a Ticket? for more information on protesting a ticket you feel was wrongly issued). Do pay attention to dates, as there is a $300 penalty for not paying your ticket. Of course, it is always best to follow the rules of the road to avoid getting a ticket in the first place.
Will this ticket result in points on my automobile insurance?
Moving violations incurred while operating a bicycle should not count against your automobile insurance rating. Make sure that any citation you receive while driving your bicycle notes that it is for a bicycle violation – there is usually a box on the citation form to indicate the type of vehicle being operated. If you don't find "bicycle" noted, ask to have this corrected.
Do I have to put my foot down for it to be a legal stop?
There is nothing in the law says that a "complete stop" requires a person riding a bicycle to take her foot off the pedal and make contact with the ground. California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21201 does say that a bicycle must be small enough for the rider to stop, support herself with one foot on the ground, and then restart safely. Nevertheless, whether or not a complete stop is made ultimately hinges on the police officer's discretion. But of course you should never be a right-of-way thief – learn to recognize right-of-way and "give way" as appropriate, and you'll be doing everyone a big favor.
Is it illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk?
In San Francisco it is against the law for anyone 13 years of age and older to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. SF Transportation Code (SFTC) Sec. 7.2.12 forbids sidewalk bicycle riding, while Sec. 1007 states "children under the age of 13 may ride a [bicycle] on any sidewalk except as otherwise posted" (see Sidewalks are for Walking for more perspectives). California law leaves it to local municipalities to regulate bicycle riding on sidewalks, so you may find yourself somewhere else in the state where sidewalk riding is legally permitted.
Are headphones illegal to wear while I ride?
Under California Vehicle Code (CVC) 27400, it is unlawful to operate any vehicle (including a bicycle) while wearing headphones in both ears.
Under California law, people under the age of 18 must wear a helmet while driving a bicycle. Those over the age of 18 may decide for themselves whether or not they would like to wear a helmet. If you do choose to wear a helmet, make sure it's properly sized and fitted. (CVC 21212)
A white front light and a red rear reflector are required when bicycling at night. Reflectors are also required on the pedals (white or yellow) and on the sides of the bike both in front of (white or yellow) and behind (white or red) the pedals. Reflective tires may be used instead of side reflectors and a headlamp may be used in place of an attached front light. (CVC 21201)
We strongly recommend you also use a red rear light in addition to a reflector.
Do I have to ride single file?
There is no section in California Vehicle Code (CVC) which requires people to ride their bicycles in single file. However, some people mistakenly interpret the requirement "to keep as far to the right as is practicable" of CVC 21202(a) to require people on bicycles to ride in single file. Under this interpretation, unless passing, turning, avoiding road debris, or riding in lanes of substandard width, people should stay as far to the right as is practicable while riding their bicycles.
For more details on CVC and your right to ride two abreast, be sure to read this L.A. Streetsblog item featuring wisdom from Dan Gutierrez on the question.
Ready to learn more about how to bicycle safely in San Francisco? Attend one of our popular free Urban Cycling Workshops.
Looking for legal advice or help? Check out our list of Bicycle-Friendly Lawyers.