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North Carolina Bike Laws

NORTH CAROLINA BICYCLE LAWS

It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in North Carolina. 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 Ann Groninger directly.

For a more in-depth analysis of North Carolina bicycle laws, please refer to the North Carolina Ride Guide.

Right to the Road

  • North Carolina bicyclists generally have the same rights, and same duties, as drivers of motor vehicles

Prohibitions

  • Unsanctioned bicycle racing is prohibited

Helmets

  • Helmets are required for children under 16

Alcohol

  • North Carolina’s DWI statute DOES apply to bicyclists

Where to Ride. Bicycles (if going less than the legal speed limit) are to ride:

  • In the right hand through lane is there is more than one lane going in the same direction; or
  • If more than one lane, as far right as “practicable”

Sidewalks

  • Each municipality has its own rules about sidewalk riding
  • Many municipalities in North Carolina allow sidewalk riding except in center city areas
  • More information can be found on www.municode.com

Bike Lanes, Bike Paths and Multi-Use Paths

  • North Carolina bicyclists are not required to ride in or upon bike lanes or paths

Left turns

  • Rules pertaining to motor vehicles also pertain to bicyclists turning left
  • A left turning bicyclist has the right of way over a driver intending to proceed straight at an intersection

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
  • A bicyclist who cannot trip a traffic signal should treat it like a broken signal and stop until the way is clear to proceed

Signaling

  • Bicyclists must use hand/arm signals when turning and stopping

Drivers Overtaking Bicyclists

  • Motor vehicle drivers must allow at least 2 feet of space when passing a bicyclist
  • Motor vehicle drivers may cross a double yellow line to pass a bicyclist as long as (1) there is enough sight distance to do so and (2) the motorist allows at least 4 feet of space between the motor vehicle and the bicyclist OR moves completely into the opposite lane to pass

Bicycles Passing on the Right

  • Bicyclists may pass motor vehicles on the right only if it a motor vehicle could legally make a similar maneuver

Group Riding

  • North Carolina places no restrictions on group riding
  • Smart group leaders who want to our law to stay the way it is will enforce safe and conscientious group riding practices and keep their groups to two abreast

Equipment

  • Front light: When operated at night, every bicycle must have a white front facing headlight visible from 300 feet
  • Rear lighting: also when operated at night, every bicycle must have a reflector and either a light or reflective clothing visible from 300 feet (tip: your blinkie light should operate as a reflector)

Electric Assist Bikes

  • In North Carolina, an “electric assist bicycle” is a bicycle with pedals used for pedaling, an electric motor of no more than 750 watts and a maximum speed on a level surface when powered solely by the motor is no more than 20 miles per hour
  • The same rules apply to bicycles and electric assist bicycles

Comments

Peter Wilborn Jan 13, 2021

As a Minneapolis-based attorney, I live, work, play and bike in the city. Although my city might be known for its lakes and our infamous Juicy Lucy, Minneapolis’ dedication to having safer streets for all should be included in that list. To reach the safe streets goal, numerous non-profit organizations and groups are working tirelessly […]

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Ambassador
Rachael Maney Jan 11, 2021

Applications for the Bike Law Foundation Ambassador Program are now live. CLICK HERE FOR THE APPLICATION. The deadline to apply is Sunday, January 24th. Those selected will be notified on or before February 1. Thanks for your support and willingness to work together to make bicycling safer for all. We are committed to you, to one another, and […]

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3-foot passing close call
Charlie Thomas Jan 11, 2021

It happens all the time: Someone emails me video footage, clearly showing they were biking along when a car buzzes past, coming within inches of a horrible crash — and there’s nothing I can do about it because we don’t have the laws in place to do something to help. Luckily, that might be about […]

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Rachael Maney Dec 22, 2020

BIKE LAW ANNOUNCES THE INDICTMENT OF CARL BEHLER FOR KILLING CYCLIST AND INJURING OTHERS   Today, Carl Behler appeared in court for the first time for killing cyclist Arthur Carter and injuring others. He was indicted on Friday (12/18) by the Anne Arundel County Grand Jury and promptly arrested and detained for 7 crimes related […]

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Bicycle Mayor
Bruce Hagen Dec 03, 2020

When I (Maria of Bike Law Georgia) called Pattie Baker, the first Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, she was trudging through marshland on her bicycle on Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway. I pictured her in my mind with her bike, wearing her signature skirts, and mud on her sandals. Always on the go, the newly minted Metro […]

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Alabama Bike Advocacy
Danny Feldman Dec 02, 2020

When Alabama bike advocate Jamie Miernik was growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she dreamed of being an astronaut.  And today, although she is not an astronaut, as a chemical engineer who worked for Boeing on the NASA space station project, she put her knowledge and talents to use keeping the astronauts safe and sound in […]

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Local bike shop Atlanta Bike Shop Mechanic
Bruce Hagen Nov 06, 2020

We have so many amazing local bike shops in the Atlanta Metro Area and in Georgia that it’s hard to single out any for the service that they provide, but here’s a short list of some of the shops from various parts of town and throughout the state. Eight Great Local Bike Shops in Georgia […]

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Justice Ginsberg Bike Law
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Nov 03, 2020

Last month after Justice Ginsberg passed away, I went on one of those long solo rides to pedal things out.  I was hoping that time in the saddle would help settle the emotional torrent within me.  On one hand, I was feeling driven, empowered, and more motivated than ever to step things up a notch […]

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Women on Bikes Rachael
Peter Wilborn Oct 11, 2020

Rachael Maney is the Director of the Bike Law Network and of the non-profit Bike Law Foundation. As most of you know, she has spent the last two weeks on these pages profiling 16 Women on Bikes leading up to yesterday’s inaugural Women’s Cycling Day. If you haven’t yet, read her profiles of and conversations with […]

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