On average, there are 19 bicycle fatalities in North Carolina annually. In 2016, there were more than 600 bike-related crashes resulting in hundreds of injuries and several deaths. Charlotte and Raleigh, in particular, are overrepresented by bike-related crashes and injuries.
One of the best ways to avoid a bike-related injury is to know and follow all North Carolina bike laws.
Below, the bicycle accident attorneys at the DeMayo Law Offices review important safety information, plus, the rules of the road for cyclists.
North Carolina Bike Laws
Bicycle helmets are the first line of defense in the event of a crash. According to one report, wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of serious head injury by nearly 70 percent.
In North Carolina, bicyclists and bicycle passengers less than 16 years old must wear safety helmets while riding on public roads. However, all bicyclists are encouraged to wear a helmet.
Parents and guardians who knowingly allow a child less than 16 years old to ride without a helmet can be fined.
Here’s a list of other important bike laws every rider needs to know:
- Required lighting equipment – bikes must be equipped with a rear reflex mirror. To operate a bike at night, bicycles must be equipped with a lighted lamp on the front and a rear lamp that exhibits a red light. Both lights must be visible in normal atmospheric conditions from at least 300 feet away.
- Impaired driving – it’s illegal to ride a bike on public roadways under the influence of an impairing substance such as drugs or alcohol.
- Riding on the right – bicyclists (like other motorists) must ride on the right side of the road at all times, unless any of the following are true:
The bicyclist is overtaking and passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction
The bicyclist is avoiding a dangerous obstruction
The bicyclist is preparing for a left turn
If the lane is wide enough to allow motor vehicles to pass safely, ride on the right side of the lane.
- Signs and Signals – bicyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals.
- Signaling a Turn or Stop – bicyclists must signal their intention to turn by using electrical, mechanical, or hand and arm signals for left and right turns and stops. Signaling must begin at least 100 feet before the turn or stop and must continue throughout the action.
- Yielding – Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians who are walking in a roadway, sidewalk, walkway, or in a crosswalk.
- Crashes – Any bicyclists involved in a crash that inflicts injury, property damage, or death must immediately stop and remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives. Law enforcement must be notified of any crash involving injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more.
Local Ordinances & Other Safety Laws
Aside from knowing specific state laws, bicyclists should also become familiar with local laws that may apply. For example, Charlotte’s City code prohibits things like riding on handlebars or without a braking system. Check your city or county ordinances for specific details.
Finally, motor-vehicle drivers should also learn to share the road with other transportation modes. Bicyclists, in particular, are afforded certain protections.
For example, drivers overtaking and passing a bicyclist can only do so if there’s at least two feet available to the left of the bike. Moreover, there are times when passing a cyclist are prohibited such as:
- On the crest of a hill or at a curve in the road where the driver can’t see at least 500 feet ahead
- At any railroad grade crossing or intersection, unless directed to do so by a traffic officer
- Anywhere that signs or markers indicate that passing should not be attempted
Bike-Friendly North Carolina
While some cities like Charlotte have made strides to improve our roadways for bicyclists and other travelers, there is still much more that needs to be done.
The North Carolina Vision Zero initiative is a statewide program that aims to eliminate roadway deaths and injuries using data-driven prevention strategies and public awareness programs.
Furthermore, some cities are taking individual action. Charlotte BIKES, for example, is the city’s blueprint to achieve an inclusive cycling environment “where people of all ages and abilities can use their bikes for transportation, fitness, and fun.”