Bicycle Accident Lawyer Charlie Thomas explains the bicycle laws of Louisiana
As both a bicycle accident attorney and advocate for safer riding, I prepared this article to serve as an overview of the laws that apply to riders while bicycling in Louisiana.
Fault of the Motorist or Bicyclist in a Crash that Affects Recovery
In any accident, the question of fault or liability asks who was responsible for causing the accident and to what degree. Different states treat this issue of fault differently depending on the amount of fault of the injured person. Louisiana follows a pure comparative fault rule, which means that an injured party may recover even if he or she is 99 percent at fault. Nevertheless, their recovery would be reduced by the injured party’s degree of fault. Source: Louisiana Code of Civ. Proc. art. 2323.
Safe Passing Laws
Louisiana requires that the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall exercise due care while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle and shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. An operator of a motor vehicle may pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §32:76.1.
Louisiana requires that any person under the age of 12 riding a bicycle, as an operator or passenger, must wear a protective bicycle helmet. The issuance of a citation for failure to wear a required helmet shall not be prima facie evidence of negligence. The comparative negligence statutes of Louisiana shall apply in these cases as in all other cases of negligence. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §32:199.
Louisiana does not have a statute that specifically authorizes or prohibits the operation of a bicycle upon a sidewalk.
Bicycling Under the Influence
Louisiana has a DUI law that prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance while intoxicated. The issue relating to bicycles came to a head in 2000 when the Louisiana Supreme Court decided the criminal case of State v. Carr, 761 So.2d 1271 (2000). In Carr, the Court held that the DUI law did not apply to a bicycle because both the interpretation and intention of the law were ambiguous in their application to bicycles. Since Carr, Louisiana lawmakers have not amended the statute to include bicycles.
Louisiana requires that no person open any door of a motor vehicle located on a highway without first taking precaution to ensure that this action does not interfere with the movement of traffic or endanger any other person or vehicle. In addition, no person shall leave open any door of a motor vehicle located on a highway for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §32:283.
Vulnerable Road User Laws
Louisiana does not define who is a “vulnerable road user,” but protects bicyclists by providing that it is unlawful to harass, taunt, or maliciously throw objects at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §32:201.
“Idaho Stop” and Vehicle Detection Errors
Louisiana does not provide any modifications to the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Treatment as a Vehicle
In Louisiana, bicycles are vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles. A person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and duties of the driver of a vehicle as provided in Title 32 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes, except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§32:1(92); 32 §194.
Mandatory Use of Separated Facilities
Louisiana does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane.
Distracted Driving Laws
Louisiana currently has the following laws aimed at distracted driving, subject to limited exceptions: (1) no person shall operate any motor vehicle upon any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication; (2) no person who holds a Class “E” learner’s license or intermediate license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while using any wireless telecommunications device to engage in a call, unless the wireless telecommunications device is a hands-free wireless telephone; and (3) No person who is seventeen years of age or younger shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway in this state while using any wireless telecommunications device to engage in a call or write, send or read a text-based communication. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§32:300.5; 32:300.6; 32:300.7.
Where to Ride
Louisiana requires that bicyclists ride as close as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway except under any of the following circumstances: (1) when overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; (2) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; (3) when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, including a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane; (4) when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized; and (5) when operating upon a roadway or a highway, where there are two or more marked traffic lanes and traffic travels in only one direction, in which case a bicyclist may ride as near the left-hand curb or shoulder of that roadway as practicable when preparing for a left turn. Source: La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §32:197.
If you have any questions about these laws or how they may apply, please feel free to contact us via email (Charlie@bikelaw.com) or phone (1-844-531-7530) to discuss this topic further.