When it comes to the “rules of the road”, the answers are often anything but black and white. State, county, and city laws can overlap to form a puzzling patchwork of bicycle regs and, when you add in local neighborhood codes, it’s often hard to sort out exactly who you should be listening too, especially when there’s a contradiction. In today’s post, we’ll look at where to find your local bike laws and how to keep it legal on the road.
State law is generally a good starting point as it’s fairly normal for your State to set some high-level regulations while leaving the option open for smaller agencies to go into more depth as needed locally. That said, sites like the DMV, PD/FD, etc… tend to have a bit of an automotive bias making bike laws hard to find over car info. Instead, check out what national bike groups have put together for your state, like this handy guide from the League of American Bicyclists!
Local Bike Organizations
When it comes to finding your county, city, and neighborhood laws, your best bet will be the local bike groups. Local government offices aren’t really known for their robust web presence, customer service, or… well anything really. Quick, name three of your city council-members. Luckily, most of us live under the umbrella of a regional advocacy group, and they’ll have put together a primer on the local laws. In LA, the LACBC has a solid collection of regulations and the DOT’s even gotten in on the action lately by putting together a little info site of their own. If you’re having a hard time finding your local organization, just take a look at the sponsors of your local rides, or swing into your bike shop and ask. If you’ve ever been on an organized ride, chances are you get emails from your local group already!
The other group that’s great about getting local legal info online is, no surprise, bike lawyers! Also easy to find by checking out the sponsors of your local rides or asking around the shop, lawyers have a unique perspective on the law and how it’s enforced locally so they’re an invaluable resource for making sure you’re in the right. Also, having a lawyer’s number handy makes it easier to deal with any issues like tickets, accidents, etc…, so bookmark your favorite and you’ll always be prepared.
The official motto of the 21st century ought to be, “When in doubt, Google”. If you’re still struggling to find relevant info after checking around, just pop open your favorite search engine and punch in “[Local Area] bike laws”. It may take some sifting, but you’ll almost certainly be confronted with hundreds of results (often containing the local advocacy organizations, lawyers, etc… listed above). Just be sure to double check the dates things were posted, as laws tend to change and it’s embarrassing to be caught doing something that used to be legal but has since been outlawed.
And now you’re ready to hit the streets! Remember that, whatever the law says, the most important thing is keeping yourself safe. Knowing what’s expected of you will go a long way toward making you a predictable road user and a safer rider.
We’ll see you out there!