10 North Carolina Bicycle Laws You Should Know

On average, there are 20 bicycle fatalities and over 600 bike-related crashes in North Carolina each year, and the number of cyclist deaths increased by 86% in 2017. Charlotte and Raleigh, in particular, represent the majority of bicycle-related crashes and injuries.

The NCDOT defines a bicycle in a special class of non-motorized vehicles. Under this special vehicle class, bicycles are provided the same rights to the roadway as trucks and cars and must exercise responsible driving practices. That means one of the best ways to avoid a bike-related injury is to know and follow all North Carolina bike laws.

If you’ve experienced a bike-related accident, our Charlotte bicycle accident attorneys at Campbell & Associates can protect your rights and help you recover fair compensation. Call 704-333-0885 or schedule a free consultation today.

Equipment Requirements

In the world of cycling, costly upgrades to pedals, wheels, and commuter gear are common investments, but if you’re an adult riding during daylight hours, the law requires no additional equipment. The following are exceptions:

1. Children must wear helmets

Helmets are required for children under the age of 16. While the majority of states have no bicycle helmet requirements at all, North Carolina is one of 12 states with the under 16 rule. However, it’s recommended that even adult bicyclists wear helmets while riding.

Parents and guardians who knowingly allow a child under 16 years old to ride without a helmet can be fined.

2. Lighting required at night

After dark, you need a white light on the front of your bicycle that can be seen from at least 300 feet and a red reflector or light on the back that can be seen from at least 200 feet.

Where to Ride on the Road

North Carolina does not require bicyclists to use bike lanes when they exist, and it is typically safer to ride on the road than to ride on a sidewalk. That said, sometimes riding on the sidewalk is legal and sometimes it’s not. See www.municode.com to check the municipal code for the city where you’re riding.

3. Stay off fully controlled access highways such as interstates

North Carolina law prohibits bicycle riding on fully controlled access highways and NCDOT’s website also references a policy prohibiting riding on limited access highways.

4. Ride in the direction of traffic on the right

Wrong-way cycling is a leading cause of collisions between bicyclists and motor vehicles. The only exceptions include:

– Overtaking and passing another vehicle

– Moving to avoid an obstruction

– Preparing for a left turn

Although motorists often claim that a bicycle rider should be charged with impeding traffic, the North Carolina statue prohibiting driving so slow as to impede traffic applies only to motor vehicles.

In fact, the North Carolina Driver Handbook states that “Bicyclists usually ride on the right side of the lane but are entitled to the use of a full lane.”

5. Cyclists are protected when drivers are passing

Drivers overtaking and passing a bicyclist can only do so if there’s at least two feet available to the left of the bike. There are also times when a motorist’s passing is prohibited:

– At railroad grade crossings or intersections

– On the crest of a hill or at a curve in the road where the driver can’t see at least 500 feet ahead

– When signs or markers indicate a No Passing Zone

Obey All Traffic Signs, Signals and Rules of the Road

Intersection collisions are more common than any other type of bike-related collision, which means that in addition to following the rules of the road, cyclists must be visible and predictable when approaching intersections, turning or merging.

6. Stop for red traffic lights and stop signs

The law requires bicycle riders to wait until the light turns green before continuing and come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

7. Make turns in the appropriate lane

When turning left, approach in the extreme left-hand lane and when turning right, approach as close as possible to the right-hand curb.

8. Communicate with built-in signals or hand signals

For left turns, extend your hand and arm horizontal with a pointing forefinger. For right turns, point your hand and arm upward. For a stop, point your hand and arm downward. When an arm signal is impractical, lane positioning, a head turn and eye contact are typically sufficient.

9. Remain at the scene of a crash

Bicyclists involved in a crash that causes injury, property damage, or death must immediately stop and remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives.

10. Do not ride a bike while intoxicated

Just like motor vehicle drivers, you can receive a DWI for bicycling on public roadways under the influence of an impairing substance such as drugs or alcohol.

Envisioning a Bike-Friendly North Carolina

Following North Carolina’s ranking among the nation’s top 10 “Most Dangerous States for Cyclists,” according to a 2011 report from Insurance Business America, the state has pushed for increased safety measures for cyclists.

The NC Vision Zero initiative is a state-wide program which aims to eliminate roadway deaths and injuries using data-driven prevention strategies and public awareness campaigns.

Even cities are taking action where a disproportionate number of bike-related accidents occur. Charlotte BIKES plan, adopted by the Charlotte City Council in May 2017, is the city’s blueprint to becoming a bicycle-friendly city. Their vision is to “offer an inclusive cycling environment, where people of all ages and abilities can use their bikes for transportation, fitness, and fun.”

What to Do After a Bicycle Accident

If you are a cyclist and are involved in a crash with another bicycle, motor vehicle, pedestrian or an unavoidable hazard from a business or municipality, our team of bicycle accident attorneys in North Carolina has the expertise you need to protect your rights. It is important you have a lawyer who understands the law and intricacies of these types of injury cases.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an any kind of bicycle accident, give us a call so that we can begin discussing your legal options. Contact our North Carolina personal injury lawyers for a free consultation at 704-333-0885 or online for a free case evaluation.