Biking Laws in the United States

Riding your bike is fun, but depending on where you are, your laws, duties, and obligations may change! We want you to enjoy your time on the bike paths and road, so with that in mind, we have compiled the laws and duties you need to be aware of when cycling, depending on the state you are in. 

*Disclosure: This isn’t legal advice (we’re not lawyers). We just wanted to provide some resources to fellow bike enthusiasts based on our experience and research.

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Below, you can see a map of the US. If you click on the state you’re interested in, you can read about its biking laws. Laws change though, so if you see something missing or something that has changed, leave us a comment and let us know!

By having a community keeping track of things, we can all benefit and enjoy cycling on the right side of the law.

All states have different bike laws, so please click on our map for our current knowledge of the law. However, there are a few general overlaps.

Laws around bikes are a new specialty with the first appearing in the 1980s, though cyclists have been agitating for their rights to the road since the 1880s. It took about a hundred years, but a solid body of laws around bikes developed and there are even some lawyers who specialize in bike laws, generally representing athletes, but also average riders.

Biking laws now tend to vary from state to state, but the right to the road is recognized in the vehicle codes of most of the states. Most states also require that cyclists follow the same signs and signals as car drivers, though they are treated as pedestrians for crosswalks. Most states also require riders to stay as far to the right of the road as possible.

Other than these things, many states differ in how they handle things like safety features, helmets, bike paths, and electric bikes, so it’s important to stay on top of the laws wherever you live or plan to travel.

Bike Lanes

Every state has duties and laws around where you’re allowed to ride your bike and where you’re not. Some states only allow you to bike on bike paths or bike lanes; others are fine with you biking on the highway.

Some let you ride two abreast, others only let you ride two abreast on bike paths.

Some places allow you to ride on the highway rather than a lane if there is no lane or the lane is too damaged or impossible.

How will you know where you can ride and how you can ride? Check first!

Safety Equipment

Surprisingly, the majority of states do not mandate the wearing of helmets, even for youth. Instead, this is often left to municipal law or is strongly advised and recommended as a Good Idea. But there are states which do require you to wear a helmet, so make sure you check before you ride bareheaded.

Also, there are some states which do not require you to wear a helmet, but some cities in the state do, so again, check.

Other safety equipment that is often covered by the law include:

  • Brakes
  • Reflector lights (rear and front)

In fact, brakes and reflector lights are mandated in more states than helmets are! Again, make sure to check your state before you ride if you’re not sure.

Where You Can and Cannot Ride

As said before, most of the laws you need to worry about are bound up in where you’re allowed to ride and where you’re not allowed to ride.

Many states do not allow bikes on the freeway or on many highways. Many of them also don’t allow bikes on sidewalks or they aren’t allowed in the business district on the sidewalks. And bikes are considered vehicles which means they cannot utilize crosswalks.

In order to deal with this, many states require that riders dismount and walk their bikes across the crosswalk, thus becoming pedestrians.

Most states have plenty of bike paths and lanes where bikes are encouraged to be. Some states are also looser about their requirements of where people can and cannot ride, often tied to the logistics of keeping track of riders. For example, it would be much harder to mandate where people can and cannot bike in somewhere like Alaska compared to New York.

It’s important to be fully cognizant of where you are allowed to ride as this is the easiest thing for the police to nail you on, which can lead to fines or worse.

Electric Bikes

Only a few states currently have laws around electric bikes since it is a relatively new technology on the consumer market. However, this is something that is going to start rapidly changing as states start adapting laws to meet the needs of the people.

Laws around electric bikes right now tend to cluster around the definition of an e-bike (in comparison to a motorcycle), whether or not the bike needs a license, and what type of registration you will need.

We’ll try our best to keep you updated as information comes in regarding e-bikes and the laws. In the meantime, many people treat them with the same laws as you would vehicles, as much as possible.

This is just an overview of the kind of thing you can expect to read when you’re looking up laws by state using our bike laws map.

Each state has its own, individual information as the vast majority of bike laws are determined by state, not by federal, law. It’s important to make sure you check the laws in your state, particularly if you are traveling new to that place before you ride your bike.

There are too many cases of people getting into trouble with the police because they didn’t know about the way one state did things that were different from another state. Read and do your research first and then you can make sure you are riding legally all the time.

We will try to update this map whenever we can with new information, but we also hope that you will help us! Let us know of any omissions or changes so that we can share that information with other riders.

We would really appreciate it if you could link to this page from your own site or blog or share on social media. It has taken months to research and compile all of this information and our goal is to keep it as up to date and as accurate as possible.

Ride safe, smart, and legal!