Stop Salmoning: Ride Safe with CVC Bicycle Traffic Laws

By Venice Motor Bikes

Riding your bicycle against traffic might seem like a good idea to keep an eye on oncoming cars, but it’s actually a move that could put you in more danger than you’d think. Many cyclists believe that facing the traffic gives them better control and the ability to react swiftly to any potential threats. However, laws and safety studies tell a different story.

In the world of cycling, understanding the rules of the road is crucial for your safety and the safety of others. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) has clear guidelines about this practice, often referred to as “salmoning” by cyclists because it’s akin to salmon swimming upstream. Let’s dive into why the CVC discourages riding against traffic and how you can navigate the roads safely and legally.

Understanding the California Vehicle Code (CVC)

Following the previous discussion on the risks associated with “salmoning,” or riding against traffic, the California Vehicle Code (CVC) offers clear guidelines to further protect cyclists and ensure their safe navigation on roadways. By familiarizing yourself with what the CVC states about this practice and understanding the legal consequences of non-compliance, you can make safer decisions that align with state laws.

What CVC Says About Riding Against Traffic

The California Vehicle Code mandates that cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic. This law is grounded in the principle of predictable movements, which are crucial for the safety of all roadway users. According to CVC Section 21650.1, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers, which includes adhering to the traffic flow direction. Riding against traffic disrupts the predictability of movements and significantly increases the risk of collisions, especially at intersections and driveways where drivers may not expect or see an oncoming bicyclist.

The Legal Repercussions of Violating CVC

Violating the CVC by riding against traffic can lead to several legal consequences. Law enforcement may issue citations to cyclists who fail to comply with this rule, which might result in fines. The specific penalty can vary depending on the jurisdiction within California but generally includes a base fine plus additional fees that can significantly increase the total amount due. Moreover, such violations could potentially impact the cyclist’s record, depending on the situation and the severity of the infraction. Beyond the immediate legal and financial repercussions, cyclists should be aware that non-compliance with traffic laws, including riding against traffic, can affect their ability to seek damages if involved in an accident while violating this specific provision.

The Dangers of Riding Bicycle Against Traffic

Riding a bicycle against traffic, often referred to as “salmoning,” brings significant risks. Understanding the dangers and statistics associated with wrong-way cycling can significantly enhance safety on the road. As previously mentioned, the California Vehicle Code (CVC) requires cyclists to adhere to the same road rules as motor vehicles, including riding in the same direction as traffic. This section delves deeper into why riding against traffic is not only illegal but also perilous.

Statistics on Accidents Involving Wrong-Way Bicyclists

Accidents involving cyclists who ride against traffic often result in more severe outcomes. Analysis reveals that wrong-way bicyclists are at a higher risk for both collisions and injuries. For instance, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report highlights that riding against traffic increases the risk of a head-on collision, which is significantly more dangerous and likely to result in serious injury or fatality compared to other types of accidents. Data indicates that wrong-way cycling accidents account for a considerable percentage of all bicycle collisions, underscoring the need for adherence to traffic laws.

Why Riding the Wrong Way is Risky

Riding against traffic poses several risks, making it a dangerous choice for cyclists:

  • Decreased Visibility: Cyclists riding the wrong way are less visible to drivers, especially at intersections and driveways, where drivers do not expect traffic to come from the opposite direction.
  • Unexpected Movements: Motor vehicle drivers expect all traffic to follow the same direction. Wrong-way cyclists create unpredictable situations, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
  • Reduced Reaction Time: Both cyclists and drivers have less time to react when a bicycle approaches head-on, diminishing the possibility of avoiding a collision.
  • Increased Impact Force: Collisions involving wrong-way cyclists typically occur at higher relative speeds, amplifying the force of impact and the severity of injuries.

Adhering to road rules, including riding in the designated direction of traffic, is paramount for your safety and the safety of others. By understanding the risks associated with “salmoning” and complying with the California Vehicle Code (CVC), you contribute to a safer road environment for everyone.

Safety Measures for Bicyclists

Riding a bicycle in alignment with road traffic laws not only keeps you legal but significantly enhances your safety. Following the discussion on the risks of “salmoning” or riding against traffic, it’s clear that understanding and implementing safety measures can greatly reduce your risk of accidents and injuries. Let’s delve into some crucial safety measures every bicyclist should adhere to.

Proper Lane Positioning and Signaling

When cycling, your position on the road and how you communicate with other road users can dramatically affect your safety. Always ride in the same direction as the traffic, adhering to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21650.1. This practice increases your visibility to drivers and reduces the risk of head-on collisions.

Choose the rightmost lane that heads in your direction. If the road has a bike lane, use it, as it’s specially designated for cyclists. However, if you need to move out of the bike lane to overtake another bicyclist or avoid hazards, ensure you scan the environment, signal your intentions to drivers and other cyclists, and proceed with caution.

Signaling is a vital communication tool on the road. Before turning or changing lanes, always use hand signals to alert drivers and pedestrians of your intended actions. Extend your left arm out to signal a left turn and your right arm out for a right turn. Always ensure your signals are clear and made well in advance of your action, giving other road users ample time to react accordingly.

The Importance of Wearing Protective Gear

Protective gear plays a critical role in minimizing injuries in the event of an accident. The most essential piece of protective gear is a helmet. Make sure you wear a helmet that meets safety standards, fits well, and is properly fastened every time you ride. Helmets can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries, which are among the most severe and common injuries in bicycle accidents.

In addition to helmets, consider wearing other protective gear. Gloves can protect your hands in a fall and improve grip on the handlebars. Eye protection, such as sunglasses or clear lenses, can keep debris and insects out of your eyes and improve visibility. High-visibility clothing or reflective gear makes you more visible to drivers, especially in low-light conditions or at night.

Implementing these safety measures doesn’t just comply with legal requirements; it actively contributes to a safer road-sharing environment. By positioning yourself correctly on the road, signaling your moves, and wearing appropriate protective gear, you’re taking significant steps toward ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road. Remember, the goal is to enjoy cycling while minimizing the risks associated with it.

Best Practices for Riding Bicycles on Roads

After understanding the grave risk of riding against traffic and the critical need for proper gear and signaling, it’s equally important to focus on how to navigate roads safely. The following guidelines provide a roadmap for enhancing your safety and ensuring a more enjoyable cycling experience.

Navigating Intersections and Turns

Intersections pose significant risks for cyclists, primarily due to the complex traffic patterns and increased interactions with vehicles. To navigate intersections and turns safely, you should:

  • Follow Traffic Signals and Signs: Just like motorists, obey all traffic lights, stop signs, and yield signs. If there’s a bicycle traffic signal, follow its instructions.
  • Position Yourself Correctly: In lanes, position yourself in a way that’s both visible to motorists and indicative of your intended direction. When turning left, signal and move to the center or left side of the lane, if safe and practicable, to make your intentions clear.
  • Make Eye Contact: Attempt to make eye contact with drivers at intersections to ensure they see you. This can help avoid the common “right hook” accident, where a turning vehicle collides with a straight-moving cyclist.
  • Use Hand Signals: Signal your turns well in advance using standardized hand signals. This simple action informs motorists of your intentions, reducing the likelihood of collisions.

Being Visible and Predictable to Motorists

Visibility and predictability are your allies on the road. Here’s how you can leverage them:

  • Wear Bright Clothing: High-visibility clothing makes you stand out, especially during dawn, dusk, and night. Reflective gear and lights will significantly improve your visibility to drivers.
  • Ride in a Predictable Manner: Avoid weaving between lanes or making sudden turns without signaling. Stick to a straight path as much as possible, and always signal your intentions to change direction or lane.
  • Use Lights: California law requires a front white light, rear red reflector, and white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, shoes, or ankles when biking at night. Consider using flashing lights even during the day to enhance visibility.
  • Avoid Blind Spots: Stay out of drivers’ blind spots, especially near and at intersections, and while overtaking or being overtaken by vehicles. If you can’t see a driver in their side mirror, they likely can’t see you either.

By adhering to these practices, you make the roads safer for yourself and others. Riding with respect for traffic laws and awareness of your surroundings greatly diminishes the risks associated with cycling and contributes to a positive sharing of the road. Remember, your safety and the safety of those around you depend on your actions and diligence on the road.

Raising Awareness and Education

Cycling against traffic, known as “salmoning,” poses significant risks. To combat these dangers, raising awareness and education about the right ways to ride bicycles on roads according to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) is crucial. This section delves into the initiatives and infrastructural elements that play pivotal roles in preventing riding against traffic and ensuring cyclists’ safety.

Community Programs and Initiatives

Community programs and initiatives are vital in educating cyclists and the public about the risks of salmoning. Various cities in California have developed programs aimed at:

  • Holding Workshops and Safety Clinics: These events provide hands-on education about bicycle safety, the importance of riding with traffic, and the correct use of bicycling gear.
  • Distributing Educational Materials: Flyers, brochures, and online resources offer guidelines on safe cycling practices, prominently including the need to follow traffic directions as stipulated by the CVC.
  • Engaging in School Programs: By incorporating bicycle safety into school curriculums, children learn the correct ways to ride from an early age, fostering a culture of safety and compliance with traffic laws.
  • Collaborating with Local Businesses: Partnering with bike shops and cycling clubs to promote awareness about the dangers of riding against traffic and encouraging adherence to traffic regulations.

The Role of Signs and Infrastructure in Prevention

The design and implementation of cycling-friendly infrastructure are key to preventing salmoning. Essential elements include:

  • Bicycle Lanes: Clearly marked and dedicated bicycle lanes encourage cyclists to ride in the correct direction, reducing the temptation to ride against traffic.
  • Signage: Proper signs that indicate the direction of traffic flow for cyclists are crucial. These signs not only remind cyclists of the law but also alert motorists to the presence of bicycles.
  • Physical Barriers: In certain areas, physical barriers can be effective in separating bike lanes from vehicle traffic, making it difficult for cyclists to ride against the flow of traffic.
  • Educational Signage: Signs that explicitly warn against the dangers of salmoning, coupled with reminders of the CVC requirements, raise awareness directly where cyclists make decisions about their riding direction.

By combining community initiatives with the right signs and infrastructure, cyclists’ awareness and adherence to traffic laws increase. These efforts collectively contribute to making roads safer for both cyclists and motorists, reducing the incidence of accidents and enhancing the overall cycling experience in California.


Riding with traffic isn’t just a legal requirement—it’s a crucial part of keeping yourself safe on the road. Through understanding the risks of salmoning and the importance of following the CVC, you’re taking a big step towards safer cycling. Remember, it’s not just about you. It’s about creating a safer environment for everyone on the road. Let’s embrace the resources available, from community programs to improved infrastructure, and make informed choices that protect us all. Stay safe and ride right—your journey matters.

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