Cycling Laws that Every Rider Should Know

There are over 43 million cyclists in the United States. If you had to guess, how many of those riders are up to date on common cycling laws? The answer is somewhere between few and fewer. In the presence of giants like criminal law and constitutional law, bicycle law is often overlooked. Yet, laws abound in the cycling world, and riders who aren’t aware of these laws may one day find themselves on the wrong side of one.

BWI: Biking While Intoxicated

All states have DUI laws, and some states’ DUI laws also apply to bicycles. Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent is illegal across the country, and a bicycle can be defined as a vehicle. However, some states define vehicles as “motor vehicles,” which makes charging inebriated cyclists with a DUI extremely difficult. However, a state like Oregon makes it clear in its legislature that bicycles are considered vehicles. California has gone a step further by announcing that drunk cyclists can expect the same punishment as drunk motorists. And if that’s not enough of a deterrent, in states where cyclists cannot be arrested for driving under the influence, they can be arrested for public intoxication. Thus, in the law’s eyes, drunkenness and cycling should never mix.

Weight Limit

This law doesn’t apply to riders but to bikes themselves. Yes, bikes can be too heavy according to certain states’ laws – but they’re specific to e-bikes. An e-bike is a bicycle with an electric motor that can propel it faster than regular bikes. As a consequence, this motor makes it heavier and potentially more dangerous. In Texas, e-bikes are capped at 100 pounds. The same goes for Pennsylvania. There is a regulation on the weight of pedal bikes but only in competition. Union Cycliste Internationale, the world’s cycling governing body, sets the minimum weight for a road bike at 15 pounds, which is three pounds lighter than the average road bike, 9-13 pounds lighter than the average hybrid bike, and as much as 20 pounds lighter than a mountain bike.

Idaho Stop/Delaware Yield

The Idaho Stop and Delaware Yield are two unique traffic laws specific to cyclists. The Idaho Stop gives cyclists the legal authority to treat a stop sign like a yield sign and a red light like a stop sign. The Delaware Yield is only a stop sign-as-yield sign law. Both laws have been shown to improve cyclist safety by giving them more choices at intersections. As the names suggest, the Idaho stop was first adopted in Idaho in 1982, followed by Delaware in 2017. Today, a version of one or both laws is on the books in Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, and Washington.

Bicycle law comes with its own share of surprises. It’s in cyclists’ best interest to know the above laws in case they unwillingly break one or, if they live in Idaho, Delaware, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, or Washington, unwillingly follow a law that they’re allowed to break.



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