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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

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