Most of the bike laws in Kentucky are fairly common sense, though the state is one of the few which actually differentiates between advanced riders, basic riders, and child riders, for purposes of helping drivers understand what they may be dealing with and to help other cyclists.
Laws for biking in Kentucky, much like other states, are administered on both the state and local levels, meaning that for some things (particularly sidewalk riding and gear), you will have to defer to local law as well as state law to ensure that you can enjoy your ride and stay on the correct side of the law. What should you know about bike laws in Kentucky?
Is a Bike Treated as a Vehicle Under the Law?
The first question that must always be answered when considering bike laws is how bikes are treated under the law. In Kentucky, much like many other states, bikes are considered vehicles and that means cyclists are given both the same rights and the same responsibilities as drivers of cars or trucks on the road. This means that cyclists must follow the same laws as drivers, including the following:
Cyclists are to obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. Despite this, Kentucky does observe the Idaho stop law. This means that the bike can go through a stop light if the stop light fails to detect the bicycle (i.e., it doesn’t change as quickly as it ought to because the bike didn’t give enough weight for the sensor to detect it).
Drivers do not have to worry about a specific distance between themselves and cyclists; this is governed by traffic laws and common sense.
Bicycles are to keep to the right when riding with other vehicles unless riding under the following circumstances:
- Getting ready for a left turn (and actually doing it)
- Passing a slower vehicle
- If the road is too narrow to share; riders can ride far to the left to prevent other vehicles from attempting to pass in the same lane (and thus driving unsafely around others)
- To avoid conflict with right turning vehicles
- If it is needed to create enough safe distance to the right (usually because of debris)
- If the rider is on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes
- If you must do it in order to continue on the route
- Kentucky also allows bikes on sidewalks and crosswalks, unless prohibited by local law (remember, cyclists are governed by both!). If riders are on the sidewalk or crosswalk, then they are treated as pedestrians. They have to ride at the speed of a walk, they cannot suddenly leave the sidewalk or crosswalk, and the rider must yield to pedestrians.
Kentucky also has laws around the use of exclusive bike paths. If there is a lane that has been marked for the exclusive use of bikes, then riders are to use that lane. There are only a few exceptions to this:
- The bike is traveling at the speed limit (which is unlikely!)
- If the rider is going to do a left turn
- If the rider is passing a slower vehicle
- If it’s necessary to avoid hazards on the road or to avoid the door zone of a carIf the cyclist is coming up on a driveway or intersection where cars are allowed to turn right from a lane to the left of the bike lane.
Kentucky specifically states that bikes may be parked on sidewalks as long as they don’t stop pedestrians and they can also be parked at an angle to the curb on a road, as long as the bike parking is allowed. This is in contrast to many other states where this is left largely up to municipal law rather than being enshrined in state road codes.
All in all, Kentucky is a bit strict around where bikes are allowed to be ridden, so it’s important to keep on top of them so that you can ride legally.
Kentucky has several laws and ordinances around the type of gear that a bike should have in order to be ridden safely and legally.
When riding at night, a bike or the biker must be equipped with a front light on either the bike or the rider (Section 2(1) of the Kentucky Road laws) that is visible for at least 50 feet and capable of revealing objects at least fifty feet in front of the bike. A bike also must have a red reflector or rear light visible for at least 100 feet and a red light or a flashing red light visible from the rear of the bike for at least five hundred feet. These have to be used when it’s after sunset or before sunrise. This is similar to other states, except that the lights or reflectors can also be put on the cyclist rather than the bike (At least so far as the front light is concerned).
Bicycles also have to be equipped with a bell, or a horn or any other noise-making device that isn’t a siren or a whistle. It also has to have brakes which can stop within fifteen feet at a speed of ten miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement. And finally, the bike has to have a properly attached seat and can only have as many riders as proper seats (usually one).
For all these laws around the type of equipped the bike must be equipped with, the lack of other things is a bit surprising. In this case, Kentucky does not have any laws around wearing helmets, save for any municipal ordinances that cities have enacted. Kentucky is one of the few states which does not have state laws around the wearing of helmets.
Kentucky is a great state to take your bike and enjoy the scenery. It is very important to mind the laws about where you can or cannot ride as Kentucky is fairly strict about it. Otherwise, ride safe and have fun!