The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that on average, two people are killed daily in the United States in bicycle-vehicle crashes, totaling upward of 700 deaths per year. With North Carolina being a popular bike-friendly state for cycling enthusiasts, state residents in both urban and rural areas need to educate themselves about the state’s biking laws and policies.
Since the Bicycle and Bikeways Act of 1974, the North Carolina Board of Transportation’s efforts to increase safety and cycling accessibility remain a public priority. The state integrates bicycle facilities, cycle-friendly design, road improvements, and transportation initiatives with the intent to maintain and encourage cycling culture. Additionally, creating safe biking opportunities is a priority for our city; as an example, the Charlotte City Council recently heard a proposal from a bicycle advocacy group for a protected bike lane that would run through uptown. As a bicyclist, enjoying the amenities provided by our city and state goes hand in hand with understanding how to properly navigate and abide by the safety requirements of cycling.
When a motor vehicle crashes into a cyclist, the bike rider often suffers serious injury. In North Carolina, due to contributory negligence, many car insurance companies attempt to blame the cyclist for playing a role in the wreck. In order to avoid the claim of contributory negligence, recreational and commuting cyclists should learn and follow the safety tips below.
In North Carolina, Bicycles Are Considered Vehicles
Because the state considers bicycles a part of the comprehensive transportation system, traffic laws that apply to vehicle driving also apply to bikes. This includes:
- Proper lighting when necessary: A white light on the front that is visible 300 feet away and a red light on the back that is visible 200 feet away are required in low-light conditions.
- Impaired driving: No one should ride a bike while under the influence of drugs (prescription or illegal) or having a BAC level of 0.08 or more; according to the NHTSA crash statistics from 2013, 20 percent of cyclists involved in vehicle crashes had a BAC that surpassed the legal limit for operation.
- Proper bicycle operation: Cyclists need to follow driving rules such as remaining on the right side of the road, maintaining proper passing distances, properly executing lane changes (it is unlawful for cyclists to pass on the right), and following road signs and stoplights.
- Using appropriate turning signals: Cyclists should use hand signals to indicate right or left turns.
- Wearing a helmet: Anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet while cycling.
- Yielding to pedestrians: Just like drivers, bicyclists need to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.
The above laws are central to the integrated transportation system in North Carolina, and it’s critical for both drivers and cyclists to understand them for optimal safety. North Carolina riders should also utilize bike lanes when available and are not permitted to ride on sidewalks.
Receive Proper Education
Bicycle education is a fundamental aspect of safely navigating the roadways of North Carolina. Regardless of a biker’s age or ability, understanding bicycle and traffic laws will better prepare them for riding the road. As part of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Division’s safety and education initiatives, the following programs are available statewide:
At-home education is also an option with the aid of agencies and organizations at the local, state, and federal levels that have compiled safety information for distribution. In addition to the above resources, you can navigate to the following links for more information:
- The North Carolina State Highway Patrol Bicycle Safety Program
- NCDOT and Bike Walk NC partnered to create a short, three-part instructional video series: Watch part one, part two, and part three on YouTube.
Additionally, search your city for local bicycle programs that provide safe group rides, educational classes, and/or free information about state and local laws.
Myers Law Firm: Advocating for Cyclists and Bicycle Accident Victims
At Myers Law Firm, we make it a priority to educate and advocate for cyclists in North Carolina. Unfortunately, though, even the safest riders can be injured or even killed by the careless actions of others. In the case of a bicycle accident, contact our firm for representation. We offer free consultations so you can speak to attorney at the time of the accident and get candid advice about what your best course of action is.
Keep in mind that North Carolina has a three-year statute of limitations to file personal injury cases, which makes it essential to quickly report any injury and protect yourself against potential long-term health concerns. Receive your free consultation today by calling our offices at (888) 376-2889 or filling out our convenient online contact form.
Emert, J. (2016, July 7). Crash reports show bicyclists at fault more than drivers. ABC News. Retrieved from http://wlos.com/news/local/apd-crash-reports-show-bicyclists-at-fault-more-times-than-drivers
Laws & policies. (n.d.). North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.ncdot.gov
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2015, May). Traffic Safety Facts: 2013 Data. (Report No. DOT HS 812 151). Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Administration. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812151
Safety & education. (n.d.). North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.ncdot.gov
The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. (n.d.). Bicycle Laws in North Carolina and the US. North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.ncdot.gov/bikeped/download/BicycleTrafficLawsInNCAndUS.pdf