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Iowa Bike Laws

IOWA BICYCLE LAWS 

It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Iowa. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here).

For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Jim Freeman directly.

Right to the Road

  • Iowa bicyclists generally have the same rights, and same duties, as drivers of motor vehicles.

Prohibitions

  • Sirens are not permitted on bicycles except for used by a police or fire department.

Helmets

  • There is no statewide requirement for helmet use.

Where to Ride

  • Bicycles are to ride as close as practicable and safe to the right side of the roadway except when overtaking another vehicle or when preparing to make a left turn.

Sidewalks

  • Iowa state law is silent as to bicycling on the sidewalk, but some municipalities prohibit sidewalk biking.
  • Iowa City – City Plaza or Commercial District
  • Cedar Rapids – Business District
  • Fairfield – Central Business District

Bike Lanes, Bike Paths and Multi-Use Paths

  • Iowa bicyclists are not required to ride in or upon bike lanes or paths.

Stop Signs and Traffic Control Devices

  • Bicyclists are required to come to a full and complete stop at all stop signs and traffic lights displaying a red signal.

Signaling

  • Bicyclists must use hand/arm signals when turning and stopping.
  • Left turn – Left hand and arm extended horizontally.
  • Right turn – Left hand and arm extended upward.
  • Stop or decrease of speed – Left hand and arm extended downward.

Actions Against Bicyclists

  • A driver shall not steer a vehicle toward a bicyclist.
  • It is illegal to throw an object or substance at a bicyclist.

Vulnerable User Law

  • Iowa has additional penalties that may be imposed in a collision that results in the injury or death of a cyclist.

Group Riding

  • Iowa state law does not address how many riders may ride abreast.
  • Come towns or cities may have their own restrictions.
  • Iowa City – Single file

Distracted Driving

  • No texting while driving

Equipment

  • Every bicycle must equipped with a white front facing headlight, and a red rear reflector or light, visible from at least 300 feet when used at nighttime.
  • Lights must be used sunset to sunrise and when conditions provide insufficient lighting to see a person at a distance of five hundred feet.  Conditions may include fog, snow, and rain.

Electric Assist Bikes

  • “Bicycle” includes an E-bike with pedals and an eclectic assist motor of less than 750 watts (one horsepower) with a maximum unassisted speed of less than twenty miles per hour.

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