Your Bike, The Law and You

by William

More and more, bikes are becoming a method of transportation that many of us rely on in our day-to-day lives, where once a bicycle was thought of primarily for either sports or recreation, bikes are now a heavily used form of transport for commuters everywhere. It’s pretty easy to see why, too – with gas prices increasing regularly (along with just about every other cost associated with maintaining a motor vehicle) people are looking at ways to not only save money, but also more people are trying to adopt a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Now it is commonplace to see professionals riding track bikes, ten speeds, and mountain bikes on the shoulder of main traffic routes, the pants leg of their suit clipped in a place away from their chain.

However, adopting a two-wheeled method of getting to work comes to some changes. The average person who (until now) only rides recreationally will now have to adapt and live by some new rules in order to utilize the same motorways and roads as cars do. Most bike laws are meant to mirror motor vehicle laws, but this can be viewed as somewhat of a flaw since bicycles and cars are not the same at all; when you factor in that most of the 50 states have slightly different laws regarding bikes it’s easy to see why learning the rules of the road can be somewhat daunting. However, there are some rules that are universal and must be observed and obeyed the same no matter where you live and ride your bike.

Red Means Stop!

When a motor vehicle approaches an intersection with controlled light, and that light is red, the vehicle must come to a complete stop – simple, common sense and probably one of the oldest traffic laws in history. Well, if you’re on a bike, it applies to you also. Some states may vary in what is allowable after you’ve come to a complete stop (proceed, but yield to traffic, remain stopped until the light changes to green, etc.) but you must come to a complete stop at a red light.

Hit the Brakes!

Much like cars, all bikes need a method of stopping quickly – brakes are a requirement by law for bicycles. In the past five years, the popularity of track bikes, or fixed gear bikes as they are more commonly known, has experienced an upswing amongst cyclists, one of the defining attributes of track bikes is that they generally have no brakes which can be applied via brake levers on the handlebars or pedal applied brake (coaster brake). A bike with no brakes is of course far more (potentially) hazardous to the rider. Fixed gear bikes only have one speed, so when a rider stops pedaling, the bike stops moving – but this isn’t a substitute for a braking system. This particular law for bicycles varies greatly from state to state and has been contested in court both successfully and unsuccessfully; if you’re a fan of the fixie, check your local laws and see if you’ll need to invest in some brakes or not.

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