I’m afraid of moving vehicles, including the ones I’m powering. Still, I like to ride my bicycle and I thought it would give me some confidence on the road if I actually knew the laws for riding my bike on the road. I expected it to be overwhelming, given the propensity of lawmakers to make complicated laws. However, for bicycles, it is pretty straight forward. There were a few surprises, in the favor of making bicycle transportation more enjoyable. Here is my summary.
- Bicyclists have the rights and duties of any vehicle, unless something doesn’t have an application to a bike.
- Bicyclists are required to be careful. Duh.
- Stop signs mean a bicyclist must only SLOW down enough to determine safety, and to yield right of way if necessary.
- Red traffic lights must be stopped at, but you don’t have to wait for a green light to proceed if it is safe for all involved.
- The bike must have an attached seat.
- Only the number of people the bicycle is designed for may ride it. This does not include young children secured in a proper pack.
- Riding should be done as close to the right hand side of the road as is “practical,” except to pass, or when turning, or to avoid hazards(which can include roadside gravel and uneven roads).
- Two riders abreast is the limit on roads.
- Don’t impede normal or reasonable flow of traffic.
- Never try to carry so much that you can’t have at least one hand available to control the bike….
- Signal turns at least 100 feet ahead, unless you need both hands to maintain control of the bike.
- No racing on roads allowed except for approved events.
- Reflectors or lights with visibility up to 500 feet are required for nighttime riding.
- Give audible signals when overtaking and passing pedestrians in places designated for them to walk.
- Pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks.
- There may be special areas where bicycles are prohibited.
If you want to read all the Idaho bicycle laws for yourself, they can be found here. Keep in mind that they might be different if you visit different states. For instance, I ran across an article saying that bicyclists in San Francisco wish they didn’t have to come to a full stop at stop signs. Cities can have certain codes to learn about, depending on where you ride. They seem to be more variable in downtown areas.
Most motorists and some policemen don’t know the details of bicycle laws. (I say this admitting that I just looked them up for the first time.) I have heard of incidences locally and afar where officers wrongly cited or intimidated bicyclists, thinking they were doing their duty. Many motorists think the roads are only for cars and bike riders have no business being there and they can be pretty vocal about it. Seeing as they are driving something that can smash a cyclist, this puts the bicyclist at a definite disadvantage. But, then, people generally have trouble getting along and communicating. Why should it be any different just because bicycles are involved? However, I now feel less helpless about going out for a ride. I will always ride with some fear because I know that bikes are just harder to see on the horizon and the memory of my face plant (you can read how it happened here) lives on vividly in my mind. At least now I know what is expected of me by the legislature.
(Here is the link for a bicycling organization in the Nampa area. I have ridden with them occasionally and benefitted from their experience on the road.)