Bicycle Safety Laws: Learn Your State's Helmet Laws, Traffic Laws, and More

By: Staff Writer June 14, 2012
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As a bicyclist you're held to traffic laws just like a motorist, making it important to understand your state's bicycle laws.

This applies to safety regulations and road rules.

General Bicycle Safety Laws

The specific safety laws for your state may vary with other states , but in general you should, at the very minimum, be aware of:

  • Your area's helmet laws. With more people riding bicycles, many local governments are focusing on rider safety. Wearing a bicycle state may not be mandatory across your state, but it may be required in your local municipality. Many of these laws are based on age. New Jersey, for example, has a statewide law requiring all bicycle riders younger than 17 to wear a helmet. While in Washington, helmet laws are restricted to municipalities, with most applying to all riders of all ages.
  • All traffic signs and signals. This applies to all bicyclists at all intersections. Besides the obvious safety concerns, you can also receive a traffic ticket for violating a traffic law.
  • Riding at night laws. When riding after sunset you may be required to have a front white light and a rear red reflector. The white light may be need to be visible from a certain amount of feet (most areas require 500 feet).
  • Riding side by side. Most areas with this law allow no more than two riders pedaling abreast.
  • Obeying all road and sidewalk riding restrictions. Many designated sections of highways are off limits to bicycles. In addition, many municipalities ban bicycle riding on downtown sidewalks, requiring riders to walk their bicycles.
  • Using hand signals, similar to if you were riding a motorcycle.
  • Riding in the same direction as other traffic. It's against the law, for example, to ride against traffic in Illinois.
  • Yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians while riding on sidewalks, trails, and marked pedestrian crosswalks.
  • Approaching a school bus with flashing signal lights. Some areas require bike riders to come to a complete stop and wait for  for the flashing lights to be turned off before continuing.

To learn about the specific bike safety laws for your area, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or check your state's vehicle code.

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