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What North Carolina bicyclists should know about the law

As we discussed in a recent post, more and more people are utilizing alternative forms of transportation owing to everything from an urge to reduce their carbon footprint to an urge to reduce their monthly insurance bills. Indeed, one form of alternative transportation that is among the most accessible and the most popular in North Carolina is the bicycle.

However, it's important for those who are currently biking to and from work, school or the store -- as well as those looking to take the two-wheeled plunge -- to understand that they are not legally exempt from traffic laws.

Indeed, North Carolina law specifically dictates that bicycles are considered vehicles and, as such, bicyclists are obligated to follow the same rules of the road as motorists.

To illustrate, while motorists are required to use turn signals, bicyclists are required to use hand signals, and while motorists are required to abide by all stop signs and red lights, so are bicyclists.

Based on the foregoing analysis, most people would naturally surmise that bicyclists are legally required to travel with traffic, not against it. While this is certainly true, it's also important to understand that bicyclists are not actually required to move over for traffic, as they are legally entitled to use of the full lane. However, most choose to share the lane as it facilitates the flow of traffic.

In addition to following the rules of the road, bicyclists in North Carolina are subject to their own set of unique rules of which they should be aware, including:

  • All bicycles must be equipped with a front light visible at night for a distance of at least 300 feet, and a back red light/reflector visible at night for a distance of at least 200 feet.
  • Helmets are required for all bicycle riders under the age of 16, while a bicycle restraining seat is required for passengers less than 40 inches tall and weighing less than 40 pounds.

The purpose in sharing this information was by no means to discourage bicyclists, but rather to help them understand their legal obligations, which are in place to keep them safe. In fact, those bicyclists who abide by the rules of the road only to be involved in a serious accident caused by a negligent party should understand that just like motorists, they too can seek justice for all that they've endured.

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