6 Important North Carolina Traffic Laws That All Bicyclists Should Know

Cyclist in Bike Lane

Under North Carolina law, bicycles are still treated as vehicles and are therefore subject to some of the same traffic laws as some motor vehicles. Though there are many, here are 6 of the most important traffic laws applicable to bicyclists.

  1. Bicycles must be equipped with the proper equipment for night rides.

Under §20-129(e), when operated at night on any public street, each bicycle must be equipped with a reflex mirror on the back of it, a lighted lamp on the front that is visible 300 feet away under normal atmospheric conditions, and a red light lamp on the back that is also visible 300 feet away – or the operator must wear a bright and visible vest or clothing that can be seen from the same distance.

  1. Bicycles must follow the speed limit and slow down for any slower traffic ahead.

Under §20-141, bicyclists may not ride on a highway at a speed that is unreasonable or that lacks prudence under the current conditions. Whether the speed is below the limit is irrelevant. A bicyclist who is riding on a highway or public vehicular area without due caution and at a speed or in a manner likely to endanger another person or property is guilty of reckless driving.

  1. Bicyclists must ride on the right side of the road (in the thru lane), with some exceptions.

Under §20-146, bicyclists must ride on the right side of the highway, with a few exceptions. Such circumstances include the following:

  • When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement;
  • When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway (though they must still yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;
  • Upon a highway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon; and
  • Upon a highway designated and signposted for one-way traffic.
  1. Bicyclists must stop or yield as directed.

Under §20-158(b), the same laws that apply to drivers regarding intersection traffic laws apply to bicyclists as well. If a bicyclist comes to an intersection with a stop sign he or she must stop and yield to those who have the right-of-way. This includes vehicles operating on the designated main road. When a bicyclist comes to an intersection with a red traffic light, he or she must come to a complete stop as well. However, the bicyclist may make a right turn but must still yield to other traffic and pedestrians using the intersection or those who are preparing to cross the intersection. Under §20-146(d)(1), bicyclists must also yield before they move laterally, ensuring that they can do so safely.

  1. Bicyclists may not ride their bikes while impaired.

Under §20-138.1, a bicyclist may not ride their bike while they are legally impaired. This includes while they are under the influence of an impairing substance, after consuming enough alcohol that their blood alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit of 0.08, or if riding with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in his or her blood or urine.

  1. Bicyclists and passengers under 16 must wear helmets.

Under §20-171.9, it is unlawful for a parent or legal guardian to knowingly permit their child below the age of 16 who is biking on a public roadway, public bike path, or other public right-of-way, to operate their bike or to be a passenger on a bicycle without wearing a properly fitting bicycle helmet that is fastened securely upon the head with helmet straps.

Stay Safe and Have Fun on the Road!

Bike Lawyer NC is owned and operated by attorney Thomas Henson of Henson Fuerst Attorneys – a team of trusted Personal Injury lawyers based in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a dedicated cycling enthusiast, Thomas provides educational tools and useful resources to promote endurance sports including cycling and running. He uses his years of experience as a Personal Injury lawyer to help advance the cause of rider and runner safety and wellbeing.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a bicycling or running accident through no fault of your own, call Henson Fuerst at 919-781-1107 for a free initial consultation.

Bike Lawyer NC – Representing North Carolina Cyclists