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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

Brendan Kevenides Nov 11, 2019

A federal government agency is making a controversial recommendation to all 50 states that all bicyclists be required to wear helmets.   Mandatory bicycle helmet laws are a terrible idea.  Cycling as a form of recreation and transportation offers a myriad of benefits to the individual and the community as a whole.  An adult or child […]

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Lauri Boxer-Macomber Nov 07, 2019

On Saturday, November 2, 2019, the family of Kathleen (“Kate”) Kirsch placed a ghost bike in her honor near the site of the tragic September 13, 2019 motor vehicle operator versus bicyclist collision that ultimately led to the loss of her life. Ghost bikes are public memorials parked on public ways near fatal crash sites […]

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Rachael Maney Nov 01, 2019

November 1, 2019: Daylight Savings ends this Sunday, November 3rd, and we are counting down to fewer day time hours and the most dangerous time of year to ride a bike in the U.S. With approximately 65% of all crashes occurring in low light conditions, and the number of fatal crashes at a 30 year […]

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Rachael Maney Oct 28, 2019

CLICK HERE FOR .PDF OF THE LETTER. [CLICK AGAIN ON THE .PDF AFTER JUMP FOR DOWNLOADABLE VERSION] To all members of the media and Associated Press: Crash fatalities amongst cyclists and pedestrians are at a 30 year high with more than 2 people on bikes being killed every day and pedestrians at an alarming rate […]

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Bruce Hagen Oct 23, 2019

In the quaint downtown of Hogansville, Georgia, the memories of a once thriving economy are visible at every turn, from the old Opera House to the Royal Theater.   In this quiet corner of Troup County, south of the hustle and bustle of Newnan and the revitalized town of Senoia, Hogansville sits like a memory […]

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Fairhope Bike Shop
Peter Wilborn Sep 16, 2019

Katie Bolton and her husband Joseph are the proud owners of Fairhope Cycle and Tri in Fairhope, Alabama – the eastern shore.  Their shop has been open for 8 years now and in addition to selling and servicing bicycles, the shop often is a “hub” for cycling events in the Fairhope area.   Katie grew up in […]

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Rick Bernardi Sep 13, 2019

Stop as Yield. It was the legislative Holy Grail for Oregon cyclists. Idaho had pioneered the Stop As Yield concept—allowing cyclists to treat a stop sign as if it’s a yield sign—in 1982, and for decades, Idaho remained the only state where Stop as Yield was legal for cyclists, despite the actual practice being widespread, […]

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Peter Wilborn Aug 20, 2019

A camera is necessary kit for every ride. But finding the right camera has been a challenge, until now. My rebuttable presumption: the Ricoh GR III is the best cycling camera of all time. Read on, and if you can prove there’s a better one, let me know. The Ideal Cycling Camera To find the […]

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Human Shield Bike Lane
Bruce Hagen Jul 29, 2019

If you ride bikes around Atlanta, chances are that you know Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe.  They’re some of the many people in town who seem to live on their bikes and can be seen riding everywhere.  While they both have their “day jobs,” folks in the cycling world know them for their place in […]

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Bruce Hagen Jul 19, 2019

This is a time when advocacy efforts are crucial to making our streets safer for everyone. Within 24 hours from the Two Wheel Tuesday gathering we suffered two more casualties.  On Wednesday morning, Marten Bijvank was on his way to work on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by an unlicensed DUI driver […]

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AJ's Bicycle Shop in Iowa
Jim Freeman Jul 15, 2019

Bicycling Magazine recently published an article titled, “Hey, Bike Shops; Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”  The story follows a heavy-set 59 year old’s sad tale of how he was treated poorly from a number of local bike shops.   First and foremost, I would be clear that bikes are for almost everyone.  If you are big, […]

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Bike accident scene
Rick Bernardi Jul 12, 2019

The big bike news out of the Oregon legislature this year was the passage of a Stop as Yield law. This was an enormous legislative victory for Oregon cyclists, the culmination of over a decade of advocacy. But it wasn’t the only legislative victory for Oregon cyclists this legislative session. A less glamorous but equally […]

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