Cycling California’s Santa Monica Mountains National Park takes you to another world. You’re just north of Malibu, less than 30 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. Yet turn inland, and you leave the hubbub behind. You enter climber’s heaven, a serene world of long, winding roads that take you up pitiless gradients, through forest, past gaping canyons and sublime views.
Along the rugged coastline, you’ll pass sandy beaches and rocky shores. Head up the canyons and find canyon walls covered in dense chaparral and fragrant sages, while oak trees stand proudly on grassy hillsides.
There’s a whole tangled network of roads that criss-cross this 40-mile wide mountain range. Only a few are favoured by cars, so choose wisely, and you’ll find yourself almost wholly unbothered by traffic. On some roads you’ll see more road bikes than cars: come in January, and you may spot Axel Merckx’s U23 team on their winter training camp.
But what makes Santa Monica Mountains cycling truly special is the fact you’re in the wild, lonely stretches of some of the world’s top cycling territory yet you’re also close to amazing beaches, iconic piers and one of the world’s coolest cities. If you love climbing and descending, this is a twisty road paradise that you won’t want to leave.
Want to ride the Santa Monica Mountains National Park?
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip: detailed information on the best road rides plus where to stay, when to visit and Santa Monica bike rental.
Read on and plan your next cycling adventure.
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Whether you’re on holiday in LA/Santa Monica or here for business with just a short window to snatch a ride, don’t miss the chance to get on your bike. In this section, we share ideas for some truly awesome rides.
When thinking about rides, it’s helpful to know that the Santa Monica hills run east to west. This means the rides line up like rungs on a ladder lying on its side. The bottom horizontal is the Pacific Coast Highway and the top (sort of) horizontal is Mulholland Driveway, with the canyons running between the two. This means you get sea-level access to nearly every climb from the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
However. Though convenient and iconic, the PCH is not fun to ride. It’s a busy road with at least two lanes in each direction and a 55mph speed limit. There’s a hard shoulder, but there are often vehicles parked in it. We recommend keeping off the PCH as much as possible. If you ride the PCH, be extra vigilant.
Mount Baldy is listed above even though it’s not in the Santa Monica Mountains; from Malibu, you’re about 70 miles from Mount Baldy’s base. We’ve listed it here because it’s a favourite of the Tour of California and we think the descent down Glendora Ridge Road and Glendora Mountain Road is in our top three descents of all time. If you’re based in LA/Malibu, we think it’s definitely worth the trip!
Other ideas for road biking in Los Angeles region
Santa Monica/LA beach bike path
If you’re in the area with kids, make sure you ride the fabulous 22 mile paved bike path that runs along the oceanfront between Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles and south to Torrance County Beach in Torrance. It’s known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (and also The Strand). It takes in the iconic beachfront towns of Venice and Santa Monica and meanders through beaches, beside the sea. If you haven’t got bikes with you for the family, there are lots of places to rent suitable bikes around Santa Monica Pier.
The Palos Verdes Donut
And finally, we have a lingering regret that we didn’t get the chance to ride “The Donut”. It’s about 40 miles to the east of LA’s Santa Monica Mountains, on the exclusive Palos Verdes. It’s a roughly 28-mile undulating loop with reputedly fantastic scenery including ocean, islands and lighthouses. It’s a classic loop in the area, and the terrain looks easier going than the Santa Monica Mountains.
Bike path near Venice beach, Los Angeles (photo credit: Ingus Kruklitis/Shutterstock.com)
Rancho Palos Verdes from the sky (photo credit: trekandshoot/Shutterstock.com)
Cliffs at Rancho Palos Verdes (photo credit: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com)
You may also want to consider joining one of the local club runs. We found everyone we were in touch with very approachable:
- SeriousCycling Agoura Hills: a bike shop in Agoura Hills (see bike hire below) with regular weekly rides.
- Velo Club La Grange: a cycling club with regular rides that are open to members and non-members and tend to head out from Santa Monica.
As well as exercising extreme care on the Pacific Coast Highway, we’d also recommend avoiding Topanga Canyon Road and Malibu Canyon Road. They are the busiest canyon roads and the least fun to ride. Our routes (above) avoid these canyon roads (other than for a short stretch on Topanga – we think it’s worth it for what follows but read our eastern Santa Monica Mountains guide and decide!).
Remember to double-check accommodation bike storage arrangements (and any other services you need) before booking as policies often change.
While the Santa Monica Mountains run for about 40 miles between Hollywood and Point Mugu in Ventura County, we think Malibu is the best place to stay. Here, at the western end of the range, the traffic is lighter than in Hollywood, and you have the perfect combination of reasonably good road surfaces, great weather and superb routes.
We stayed in a beautiful two bedroom apartment within a house spectacularly located close to the top of Corral Canyon Road. On one side are the mountains, on the other divine views over the coast towards Los Angeles and out to Catalina Island. Don’t miss sunrise – or indeed sunset!
What we loved
Wonderful host.Jerri was a warm and thoughtful host who sought to make our trip as comfortable as possible. She responded quickly to messages and had lots of ideas for the best places to visit and eat. On top of that, she was happy to do our washing. She even gave us a glass of wine and cooked us dinner when we arrived exhausted, and jet-lagged on our first night.
Supremely well stocked. The apartment is full of small touches designed to make your stay as fun as possible. Jerri leant us beach equipment and put out a whole host of garden games for the children, including a paddling pool. Inside there was everything from eye make-up remover and mouthwash to porridge oats, bagels and cream cheese. The fridge was well-stocked with drinks, and the coffee machine came with a range of Starbucks coffee and teas.
Tranquil location. We loved being hidden away up the side of a canyon. You have the benefit of feeling far from the bustle of Malibu, with sea views and a great garden area for the children, yet it’s only 10 minutes drive down the twisty, narrow canyon road and you’re back in the thick of it.
Things to be aware of
Location. Be prepared for a hefty climb to get back to the house after a ride (or have someone you can call for a lift!).There are sea views from the apartment, but to get the best views, you walk over the small road and onto a vacant plot of land opposite the house a few metres away.
Guests and cars. Babysitters that are not part of your registered party are not permitted. Only one car per booking.
Kitchenette. Cooking facilities are limited: there’s a small fridge/freezer, hob/stove top, microwave and sink. There are a breakfast bar and stools, but the main dining table is outside.
Stay here if you love the peace of the mountains but want easy access to Malibu and Santa Monica. Jerri was a charming hostess and did her best to make our stay as comfortable and memorable as possible.
Other Malibu rentals to consider
Malibu has relatively few hotels to choose from so checking Airbnb or vrbo.com is a good bet.
Even then, there’s no getting around the fact that Malibu is an expensive place to stay. As a result, we spent a considerable amount of time researching accommodation before our visit. Here are the other topic picks from our short list:
- A wooden cottage in an olive grove with magical views to sea.
- Minutes from Zuma beach but with the feeling of a romantic, hidden hideaway.
- Outdoor fireplace, hot tub and two outside showers.
- Lots of restaurants within a short drive.
Malibu beachfront rental
If you want a seafront apartment in Malibu, we’d suggest going for somewhere on exclusive Malibu Road. It’s a quiet, residential one-way street that runs parallel to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). We think it would be much nicer to be here than in one of the houses you see backing straight onto the PCH. Here’s our pick of the houses on Malibu Road:
- Light and airy decor with wooden floors and ceilings and exposed brickwork. Sliding doors lead you out to a balcony overlooking the sea.
- Close to Malibu’s attractions and you can walk on the beach all the way to Malibu Pier.
- Private parking next to the apartment.
- Easy access to your own private beach.
- Contemporary decor in shades of white with a sliding door out to a balcony over the sea.
- Ping pong, dart board, toilet and outdoor shower available on the communal lower deck.
- Mountain bikes available to borrow.
- Close to Malibu’s shops and restaurants.
- 2-car parking.
Prices, services and bike brands often change. Please let us know if anything is incorrect.
The Santa Monica Mountains are something of a hidden gem, currently ridden more by in-the-know locals than international tourists. If you want road bike rental in the Santa Monica area, you need to plan ahead as there’s no central hub of bike hire shops.
We visited Serious Cycling in Agoura Hills and were impressed by their professional set up and high-end bikes. We haven’t visited the rest of the shops below, but have been in email contact.
Road bike rental Santa Monica area
29041 Thousand Oaks Blvd.Agoura Hills, CA 91301
A bike shop in Agoura Hills, about 23km north of Malibu, offers:
Pinarello Dogma F8 w/ Shimano Dura-Ace 11sp Mechanical (50cm, 53cm, 56cm)
Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think2 w/ Shimano Ultegra 11sp Mechanical (50cm, 53cm, 56cm)
Pinarello Paris w/ Shimano Ultegra 10sp Di2 (53cm, 56cm)
SCOTT Foil 30 w/ SRAM Rival 10sp (54cm. 56cm, 58cm)
$100 (Pinarello Paris or Scott Foil)
$125 (Pinarello Dogma) $150 (Pinarello F8)
$300 (Pinarello Paris or Scott Foil)
$400 (Pinarello Dogma) $475 (Pinarello F8)
2501 Broadway, Santa Monica
I. Martin Bicycles, 8330 Beverly Blvd
Helen’s Cycles has various shops, but for road bike rental, it’s the Santa Monica bike shop that’s most relevant (Beverley Grove also):
Cannondale Synapse with carbon frame, ultegra and disc brakes
Trek Domane SLR with carbon frame, ultegra and disc brakes
Pinarello Dogma F10 (available at Santa Monica shop only)
A saddle pack equipped with everything you need to repair a flat tire. Pedals, helmets and locks are available upon request at no charge. Bring your own pedals and shoes if you like.
Cannondale daily rate: $75 with $1,500 deposit
Trek daily rate: $100, with $3,000 deposit
Pinarello daily date: $175 with $9,649 deposit
Synaptic Cycles call themselves a concierge road bicycle rental service. Their prices include delivery in the Santa Monica area.
Bikes from Calfee Design, Volagi, and Focus with carbon frames and carbon forks, Ultegra/Dura Ace components, compact 50/34T cranks, and 11/25 or 11/28 cassettes.
They carry Shimano road and mtb pedals, and a number of different saddles. They’re happy to fit your own saddle and pedals.
Includes: spare tubes, a patch kit, CO2 cartridges, and a mini-pump.
4 day minimum rental: $275
Each additional day is $25/day.
Prices include delivery and pick-up within normal service areas (30 mile radius from San Clemente and 30 mile radius from Santa Monica).
12775 W. Millennium, Playa Vista (across from Whole Foods)
Located between the airport and Santa Monica.
Bianchi and KHS road bikes with Shimano 105 components
Free delivery and pick-up within 30 mile radius of Santa Monica
Locks and helmets.
|Daily rate is $50, $75 for 24 hours.|
- Book your bike in advance, particularly in peak season.
- Remember to bring your own pedals, shoes and helmet. Thispacking list may help!
- Check which way around your brakes are set before you ride away (i.e. whether the front brakes are on the right hand (as is usual in the UK) or on the left).
Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this.
When to go
There is no average weather year in the Santa Monica Mountains; neither the amount nor the timing of rainfall is predictable. One year it can rain as little as six inches, another 50 inches.
However, unlike the mountains of the Alps or the Pyrenees which are only rideable for a few months of the year, here the mild winters and long dry summers mean you can ride all year around. On scorching summer days, you’ll need to get out first thing in the morning, but the rest of the year the climate is well-suited to cyclists’ needs.
|January||While temperatures remain respectable along the coast, January to March can see some rain.|
|April||Temperatures start to increase as Spring takes hold. Morning fog can be an issue in the summer months, but it tends to burn off by lunchtime. Though the mostly Mediterranean climate means you’ll see locals hitting the beach year around, beach season gets into full swing in July. Temperatures can soar in the summer and stay warm through to October.|
|November||Temperatures drop, and you may get caught in one of the scattered winter rainstorms.|
The Complete Guide to Climbing (by bike) in California by John Summerson: this book describes California’s most difficult hills and mountains. It includes many of the roads in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s light on maps, but it gives statistics and details of each climb together with some photos.
Lonely Planet’s Los Angeles, San Diego and Southern California: does a good job of giving you the overview and background of the region and ideas for things to do.
Fodor’s California guide is excellent too. We like the fact it’s in full colour, practical and opinionated.
Alternatively, if you’re just going to be in LA and Malibu, Fodor’s Los Angeles guide might be a good choice.
Finally, if you’re wondering about continuing your journey up Highway No. 1 and want an in-depth and personal perspective on it, this article has loads of great advice.
There are plenty of maps of the Santa Monica Mountains aimed at hikers and mountain bikers, but we haven’t found one that’s particularly good for cyclists. Let us know if you have!
Located next to Hollywood, with sunshine, a temperate climate and variety of landscapes, the Santa Monica Mountains are perfect for shooting movies. From the earliest days of Hollywood, major studios, including Paramount Pictures, owned ranches here. You may spot:
- Thousand Oaks in 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha
- Leo Carillo State Park featured in 2006 film Letters from Iwo Jima
- San Vincente Mountain Park in 2007 film The Bucket List.
- Malibu Beach in 2010 film Inception
Good to know
Despite being so close to LA, the Santa Monica Mountains are home to an incredible 450 animal species.
Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains lie on the Pacific Plate, while the rest of the country is on the North American plate. The reason the mountains run east-west is due to a bend in part of the San Andreas Fault (which is the border between the Pacific Plate and North American Plate). The Santa Monica Mountains are one of the few mountain systems in the western hemisphere to do this.
All land in the Santa Monica Mountains has burned at least once in the last 100 years. It’s part of the natural cycle in these mountains. Wildfires happen throughout the year, and it’s why you’ll spot fire stations dotted throughout the hills.
Enjoyed our guide?
We’d love to hear from you – comment below or drop us a line.
Want more? Don’t miss our guide to cycling San Francisco and our guides to the best Santa Monica Mountains cycling routes and other articles on Southern California bike rides, below. For somewhere even warmer, how about Mexico?!
Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here.
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Clare Dewey is a road cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com to help make it easy for road cyclists to explore new places by bike.
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Yes, you can cycle along the Pacific Coast Highway in the United States.Can you ride bikes in Santa Monica? ›
Biking into Santa Monica
Santa Monica Beach bike rentals are conveniently available at many hotels and along the beach bike path to ride and enjoy ocean and Pacific coastline views. Check out our picks for bike rentals in Santa Monica below. Many local hotels also provide complimentary bikes or bikes for rent.
It takes about 15 minutes to bike from Santa Monica to Venice. Spend the rest of your day leisurely riding along the calm south bay and grab a bite to eat the Redondo Beach Pier before turning back north to return to Santa Monica. View the entire map of the Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail here.What is the 75 rule in cycling? ›
The 75-percent rule states that during a given training week, at least 75 percent of your miles (or time) should be at or below 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).Can you ride your bike from Santa Monica to Malibu? ›
If you're looking for the perfect California bike ride, you need to ride the Pacific Coast Highway. Specifically, you'll want to ride from Santa Monica to Malibu and experience Point Dume. It's a road that has long captivated the imaginations of cyclists and road trippers alike.Are Ebikes allowed in Santa Monica Mountains? ›
E-Bikes and Pedal-Assist Bikes
E-bikes are allowed on National Park Service lands within Santa Monica Montains National Recreation Area where traditional bicycles are allowed.
Stay within service area. Lyft ebikes are available within the city of Santa Monica (the pink region) and can be ridden anywhere within the West Los Angeles service area (the purple region).Where does Santa Monica bike path start? ›
Starting at the Santa Monica pier, this is a popular path for biking, jogging and in-line skating along the Pacific Ocean.Where does the Santa Monica bike path start and end? ›
Santa Monica Beach. Bicycle lane on Washington Boulevard, between north of Admiralty Way to Venice Beach. The portion from 1st Avenue in Hermosa Beach to the southern end of the Redondo Beach Pier.How long is the bike ride from Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach? ›
Discover this 24.7-mile out-and-back trail near Santa Monica, California. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 7 h 16 min to complete.
Cost of Lime Access
The cost of each Lime Access rental option is as follows: Lime-S and Lime-E: 50 cents to unlock, 7 cents per minute. LimeBike: 5 cents for every 30 minutes.
If you can bike 112 miles at 17 mph you will complete the bike portion in 6 hours and 33 minutes.Is Santa Monica better than Venice? ›
Venice Beach vs Santa Monica Beach—Both Are Winners
The touristy areas of these cities offer different things. Venice Beach is a vibrant beach locale that's perfect during the day, whereas the larger Santa Monica provides a wider range of things to do and a much more happening nightlife.
Average cyclists can find 7-miles a doable goal to hit
You can finish it at an average pace of 30 minutes provided that you are using a regular road bike and traversing a flat terrain.
The three-second rule increases the amount of space between groups that officially counts as a “gap” from one second to three seconds. That means that a two-second gap in the middle of the peloton is no concern; the second half of the peloton still gets the same time as the first half.Is cycling 3 hours a day too much? ›
So, since cycling is typically a mixed-intensity activity, 3-5 hours a week is a good starting point for recreational cyclists looking to achieve the basic cardiovascular and metabolic benefits of aerobic exercise.At what age do cyclists peak? ›
For Grand tour winners the peak is supposedly around late 20s/early 30s.How far apart are Santa Monica and Malibu? ›
Distance from Santa Monica, CA to Malibu, CA
There are 16.55 miles from Santa Monica to Malibu in west direction and 18 miles (28.97 kilometers) by car, following the CA 1 route. Santa Monica and Malibu are 25 minutes far apart, if you drive non-stop . This is the fastest route from Santa Monica, CA to Malibu, CA.
On a short stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood is a bike lane, or at least what was supposed to have been one. A short half-block long, it took about 18 months to complete and cost roughly $2 million, and yet it is not marked as a bike lane and does not connect to one.How long does it take to bike around Angel Island? ›
Plan on about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours hours to get around the island. It took our group 2 hours to cycle around and that was with lots of stops and some slow peddlers (me). There is only one main road around, Perimter Road, and it only gets a few maintenance vehicle and tourist trams.
While regular cyclists climb slowly and descent at a higher speed, e-bikers have changed it all. As they can ride fast even at stiff ascents they became less compatible with the other trail users and might also endanger them.
In the rear wheel the Nakto Santa Monica has a 500 nominal watt, 750 peak watt hub motor with 65 Newton meters of torque that can bring this ride up to a top speed of around 24 mph.What is a Class 1 e-bike? ›
Class 1: eBikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. Class 2: eBikes that also have a maximum speed of 20 mph, but are throttle-assisted. Class 3: eBikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.How much does a Veo ride cost? ›
E-Bikes and scooters can be located using the free VeoRide app available for download on the App Store or Google Play. Getting started is simple: Using the VeoRide app, riders can scan a QR code and pay $1 to unlock the vehicle. Riders then pay $0.33 per-minute rate for the duration of their trip.Are electric scooters banned in Santa Monica? ›
Electric scooters go up to 15 mph and are required to be on the street and with the flow of traffic. They are also NOT allowed on the Third Street Promenade or beach bike path in Santa Monica. You can get a ticket if you are seen riding an e-scooter on either or in parks, including Palisades Park.Are helmets required for electric bikes in California? ›
Motorists are required to give electric bicycles at least three feet of clearance when passing. All bicycle and electric bicycle riders 17 and under in California must wear a helmet. Like bicyclists, e-bike riders don't require a license, and their e-bikes don't need to be registered.Where is the bike capital of the world? ›
The Dutch and their bikes are inseparable.How long is the Santa Monica trail? ›
Look west from Los Angeles you'll see not just the Santa Monica Mountains, but also the gateway to one of America's premier long-distance trails. Stretching 67 miles, the Backbone Trail invites nearby residents to explore surprisingly accessible nature.How long is the Pearl Harbor bike path? ›
The path begins at ʻAiea Bay State Park behind Aloha Stadium and ends at Waipahu Depot Street for a total distance of 5.2 paved, flat miles.How many steps are in the Santa Monica Steps? ›
As the mecca of outdoor workouts in the Westside, the Santa Monica stairs offer both a wooden set of stairs (170 steps) and concrete ones (189 steps).
The Santa Monica Municipal Code contains local traffic regulations, including a regulation that prohibits riding bikes on public sidewalks (SMMC 3.12. 540). This rule bars people from riding bicycles or coasting in any type of vehicle on public sidewalks, except on designated and marked bike paths.Are bikes allowed on the Santa Monica Pier? ›
Please be safe, wear a helmet and follow the rules if you scoot or bike. Use the free Bike Valet at the Pier entry near Bubba Gump restaurant. No scooters are allowed on the Pier or Beach Path so make sure you park your scooter at the scooter parking zone at the top of the Pier Bridge on Ocean/Colorado Avenue.Can you cycle around Crystal Palace park? ›
Crystal Palace is one of South East London's most popular neighbourhoods, and it also features a great park for cycling.How long does it take to cycle the Pacific Coast? ›
How long does it take to cycle the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route? The route was put together by the Adventure Cyclist Association and is a total of 1,848miles passing through 3 US States. Most cyclists take between 4-10 weeks to complete the entire section.Can you cycle around Stanley Park? ›
No visit to Vancouver would be complete without a ride around the Stanley Park Seawall. The flat, paved path is 10 kilometres (6 miles) in length and circles the entire park. It offers spectacular views of the North Shore mountains and Lions Gate Bridge.Can you cycle on public foot paths? ›
A footpath is a way that may be passed on foot, or using a mobility aid. Cycling on a footpath is forbidden. Some sources say cycling on a footpath would be a civil offence, rather than a criminal offence – classed as a 'trespass against the landowner'.Can you cycle on the three castles path? ›
Approx 32 miles Allow 3-4 hours cycling The route involves hills and some long inclines - but at least each uphill is mirrored by a freewheel downhill! START at Llangrove Primary School entrance and contine along Llangrove Road, passing the Royal Arms Inn on the left, to the T junction.Can you cycle in Kensington Gardens? ›
As well as the road in front of the Albert Memorial, cycling is allowed along the Broad Walk, Palace Walk, Mount Walk and Studio Walk. That means you can ride north-south up the west side of the park and east-west across the south of the park.
No. Bikes are not allowed.How far can you realistically cycle in a day? ›
SPOILER ALERT: The answer is that you can probably cycle 100 km in a day. On a supported cycling tour on mostly paved roads with moderate climbing, this is an achievable distance by any able bodied adult.
Is the Coast to Coast Cycle Route Difficult? The C2C route is moderately difficult. It's only suitable for people who have experience on long-distance cycle routes, but for those who do, it's challenging but doable. If you've only ever cycled to the store and back for a can of Coke, you won't be cut out for this trip.How hard is it to cycle 20 miles? ›
If you follow routined workouts, walk to work, and run from time to time, a 20-mile ride will not be that hard. On the other side, if you have been a couch potato for a very long time, and you want to engage in a new hobby – biking, a 20-mile distance can be challenging.How long is the Stanley Park bike loop? ›
How long does it take to bike around Stanley Park? The Stanley Park section of the seawall is about 9km and takes between 1-2 hours depending on how often you stop to take photos. See below for more cycling routes in Vancouver. What is this?Is it hard to bike Stanley Park? ›
The bike path around the park operates on a one-way system as the path is quite narrow in many parts. You can only cycle counter clockwise around the park, and if you try and cycle the other way it won't take long for someone to start shouting at you.How long it takes to bike around Stanley Park? ›
Walking and cycling around Stanley Park on the Seawall
The 9 km portion around Stanley Park takes two to three hours to walk, or one hour to cycle.
Cycling is generally permissible on all roads except motorways. In themselves, major roads are fine by bike. They're direct. They're better maintained, with potholes fixed sooner and surfaces treated first when it's icy.Is it illegal to cycle on the pavement 2022? ›
The Highway Code states this more emphatically, stating in Rule 64 that “You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement”. It also advises that cyclists “take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room”.