Oklahoma is an odd place for cyclists, primarily because so much weight is given over to individual cities to dictate what cyclists are or are not allowed to do and aside from some general traffic laws, there may not always be the consistency you would see in other states. This means that you have to be particularly careful to check local law when you ride or else you will run into trouble quite quickly. Oklahoma does in general have some state-wide laws, but as noted, they tend to be more general traffic laws. What should you know about bike laws in Oklahoma (and in some of the major cities?)
Treatment of Bicycles by the Law
Bicycles are treated as vehicles, with a full right to the road and duties towards other users, except in cases where the law wouldn’t realistically apply. This means that bikes have to do things like obey traffic signs and lights (though there are a couple exceptions to that in a few cities). Oklahoma notes two exceptions to this: pedalling at the speed limit is a no-go for cyclists (obviously) and the minimum posted speed doesn’t tend to apply either because most bikes can’t go that fast! Furthermore, cyclists cannot signal continuously through their turn because they must keep both hands on the handlebars. (Section 41-11-1202).
Bikes are expected to be ridden on the right-hand side of the road, but not always to the far right; the idea is that they will travel as far to the right as is safe to do. If the cyclist is overtaking and passing another vehicle going the same way, getting ready to do a left turn or when avoiding conditions such as objects, vehicles, pedestrians, surface hazards, riding in a right-turn-only lane, or just when it’s not safe to do so, the cyclist can ride more center in the road. Cyclists also don’t have to get out of the way of cars and trucks because they have the same rights to the road as anyone else. Finally, Oklahoma does dictate that cars have to leave at least three feet of space between themselves and cyclists when passing (although Oklahoma law does not define vulnerable road users beyond this) and it’s a felony to throw things at cyclists.
If there are bike paths or lanes provided, cyclists do not have to use them unless they want to. The only exception to this is in state parks; if there is both a path and a roadway side-by-side, cyclists have to use the path. Oklahoma state doesn’t prohibit or expressly allow sidewalk riding either, although many cities ban it in business districts at the very least, as well as having the ability to put up signs that prohibit cycling on sidewalks.
Now, there are some exceptions to some of these, depending on where you ride. Edmond does observe the Idaho stop, meaning that cyclists can go through a red light if they stopped and the red light didn’t pick them up and stayed red. Motorcycles on the other hand have a limited ability to go through a stale red light. Oklahoma City has a mandatory bike lane law even though state law doesn’t care either way. Tulsa on the other hand, does not. Make sure you understand your local laws when you ride!
Oklahoma state law mandates that bikes have to use a headlamp visible from five hundred feet and a red reflector visible from between fifty and three hundred feet. Cyclists are also strongly encouraged to wear bright clothing while riding at night in order to be visible.
Bikes also must be equipped with brakes that can allow the user to skid on clean, dry pavement. Handlebars have to be at least twelve inches tall and riders must keep their hands on the handlebars at all times while riding. It’s also illegal to attach oneself to the back of a moving vehicle and to carry anything that impedes the ability to keep hands on the handlebars.
The mandated use of helmets is conspicuous by its absence. Oklahoma does not mandate the use of helmets, not even for minors. Unless of course municipal law (such as Norman which requires minors to wear a helmet) dictates otherwise. And as a slightly freaky side note, drivers of motorcycles who are over the age of eighteen also don’t have to wear helmets. This is under debate on a regular basis, but for now, you can ride anything with two wheels and not bother with a helmet so long as you are over eighteen years of age.
Helmets may be treated with a laissez-faire attitude, but the banning of earbuds and headphones has been bandied about. While it’s still legal to ride with headphones, it is strongly discouraged to do so. Oklahoma also doesn’t prohibit cyclists from riding under the influence (because bikes are defined as ‘vehicles’, not ‘motor vehicles’), though like not riding with a helmet, it’s not a good idea to ride while drunk or under the influence of drugs.
Oklahoma and E-bikes
Oklahoma law is still a bit sparse when it comes to electric bikes. Electric bikes are defined as bicycles with two or three pedals and equipped with a motor that does not exceed 1000W. Electric bikes can go a maximum of 30mph but can go no faster than that with human power.
E-bike riders must be at least sixteen years old and they must have a license. It doesn’t matter what license class is used and it doesn’t have to be a motorcycle license, it just must be a license. E-bikes don’t have to be registered. Riders under the age of 18 must wear helmets, but over the age of 18, do not.
Electric bikes can go anywhere other bikes can go, no problem.
All in all, Oklahoma has some basic laws when it comes to how cyclists are to behave, mostly concerned with where they are allowed to be ridden. It’s important to check your local laws however because many of the cities do things differently in terms of helmets, sidewalk riding, and even bike paths! Enjoy riding in Oklahoma!