Is It Legal for Bikes to be on the Road

Question:  Is It Legal for Bikes to be on the Road?  Can Cyclists Ride in the Middle of the Lane?  What are the Bicycle Laws in North Carolina?

Answer:  Not only is it legal for bikes to be on the road, the law requires it.  In fact, driving on the sidewalk is often illegal.  Many people do not realize the fact that not only are bikes allowed to ride on the roadway, they have the very same right to use the roadway and the full width of the lane of travel as any other vehicle.


Laws governing bicycling and cyclists focus on one primary purpose:  SAFETY – Danny Glover 



Where are Bikes Supposed to Ride on the Roadway?

Generally speaking, cyclists in North Carolina are entitled to take up pretty much as much space they want within the lane of travel.  While there may be some personal preferences among bicycle enthusiasts about whether that means driving in the center, right, or left of a lane, the primary consideration is safety.

Frankly, things have not always been perfect in North Carolina and other states, when it comes to interactions between people driving around in “motor vehicles” and those peddling around town on two wheels.  Come to think of it, motorcycle drivers also occasionally complain of safety issues when it comes to other motorists failing to recognize their right(s) to be on the road.

Here’s the key to it all:  Safety.

While it may occasionally be inconvenient to follow a much slower moving “vehicle,” the laws in North Carolina give bicyclists the same and in some instances, more protections.  At the same time, there are also certain restrictions and considerations about how everyone should get along on the roadways.



Can Bikes Ignore Traffic Signals, Stop Signs, and Drive Between Cars?

No.  Actually, that is one of reasons some motorists become so frustrated with cyclists.  They occasionally seem to assert the protections of the law while simultaneously ignoring other laws when it makes things a bit faster for them.

Believe it or not, in North Carolina you get get an DWI Driving While Impaired on a bicycle.  So while the North Carolina General Assembly has provided the opportunity for cyclists to use the roadway, it has also subject to people driving or riding on the roads with the legal duty to follow the law.

As such, bicycles are required to:

  • Abide by Traffic Control Devices*
  • Follow the Rules of the Road
  • Signal Before Turning
  • Riding in a Safe Manner
  • Observe the Traffic Conditions and Motorists in the area

That means bicycles are required to stop at Stop Signs and wait until the light turns green at Stop Lights.

That also means cyclists cannot ride between cars, go against the flow of traffic, failing to stop at a stop sign or red light, or otherwise ignore traffic laws.

At the same time, unlike certain other vehicles, bicycles are not subject to the laws regarding impeding traffic.

And while likely pretty uncommon, bicycles do have to follow the speed limit too!




Do Bikes Have to Have Turn Signals or Lighting?

While bicycles do not have turn signals, cyclists are required to let other motorists know, in advance, of their intent to make a turn.

That process involves the use of certain hand signals.

You may have always wondered why you had to learn hand signals in Driver’s Education.

Although given the safety features of modern cars today, hand signals are still required when vehicles either do not have such “equipment” or when things like turn signals are temporarily inoperable.

Bicycles are required to use hand signals.

The North Carolina General Assembly also recently changed the laws regarding bicycles being required to have a headlamp, rear light, and/or reflective clothing if driving at night.


North Carolina Bicycle Law 2015


See More:  North Carolina Bicycle Law Update 


Are All the Laws in North Carolina the Same for Cars as Bikes?

No.  Bicycles cannot drive on a highway.  By the way, that is true for pedestrians as well.

While cyclists may slow down traffic on smaller roadways, and as stated, are not required to maintain a minimum speed, that is not true on major Interstates.  That makes sense, given the overall speeds and associated stopping times, it would be just too dangerous to have bicycles on the Interstates.




Can a Bunch of Bikes Ride Together and Block Traffic?


Yes.  Actually, it probably is safer for everyone involved to have bikes ride together.

In fact, biking clubs that ride together generally follow some fairly strict internal safety protocols regarding spacing, rules of the road, signaling, and safety equipment.

Cyclists are VERY aware of the dangers of bicycling.  Avid bicyclists spend a lot of time on the roadway, sometimes riding a hundred or more miles a week, and therefore regularly experience safety issues.


Is it Legal to Pass Bicycles in a No Passing Zone?

Yes and No.  The North Carolina General Assembly is working to address bicycling issues.  It recently amended the laws regarding passing both Bicycles and Motorists.

First and foremost, any attempt to pass must be done safely.

Motorists may, in certain circumstances, cross lane markings or go into other lanes of travel if necessary to pass a cyclist.

Here are some Tips for Motorists Encountering Bikes on the Roadway:

  • Remember, your vehicle is heavier, faster, and more dangerous than any bicycle
  • Generally speaking, vehicles with two wheels have 1/2 the stopping power of four wheels
  • Do NOT HONK your horn while passing a bicycle or moped or motor cycle
  • Road Noise and Traffic can make it difficult for Cyclists to Hearing Approaching Cars
  • Give LOTS of room when passing
  • Do NOT accelerate suddenly when passing
  • Do NOT quickly return to the lane of travel, give LOTS of room behind you





Danny Glover:  Bicycle Law Attorney


We have experience helping both people hurt after cycling wrecks and representing motorists in criminal court with traffic violations – Danny Glover 


To be clear, we never handle a case where we represent both sides of the problem; but, if you have been charged with a Criminal or Traffic Offense involving a cyclist, we can help.  We also can serve as legal counsel to bicyclists whom have been injured as a result of a wreck in the event of an illegal, negligent, or careless driving.

“I have seen both sides of the equation.  Honestly, sometimes things boil over.  As someone with a lot of miles peddling down the roads of Eastern North Carolina, I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff.”

If you have questions, please call us now for a free, confidential consultation.