Riding a bike, especially on public roadways, is about more than learning to balance on two wheels: it’s something that drivers, as well as cyclists, must take seriously or risk injury or even death. To stay safe on shared roadways in Louisiana, cyclists should become fluent in the state’s bicycle laws to minimize risk to themselves, as well as others on the road.
Bike Lanes and Sharing the Road
Cyclists over the age of 12 are not legally allowed to ride on sidewalks in Louisiana. Bike lanes are for the exclusive use of cyclists; you’ll often see them to the rightmost side of the roadway, and save a few exceptions, drivers are not permitted to enter these lanes.
Bicycles, cars, and trucks have to share the road. In fact, in Louisiana, bicycles are considered by law to be vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles. this means that a person riding a bicycle has all of the same rights and duties of the driver of a motor vehicle under Louisiana law. According to state statute, every person operating a bicycle on a public roadway must ride as close to the right of the roadway as possible, whether there’s a bike lane or not. However, cyclists are free to leave the bike lane for all the following reasons:
- When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
- When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
- When reasonably necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lane or any other conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
- When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
Similarly, motor vehicles may enter or pass through a bike lane in the following instances:
- To prepare for a turn within a distance of two hundred feet from the intersection.
- To enter or leave the roadway onto an alley, private road, or driveway.
- To enter or leave a parking space when parking is permitted adjacent to the bicycle lane.
Note that motor vehicles MUST ALWAYS yield to cyclists, as well as electric mobility aids within the bike lane.
Moreover, in the state of Louisiana, a minimum of three feet must be maintained if a motor vehicle wishes to pass a cyclist going in the same direction. This is true whether the cyclist is in a designated bike lane or not.
Helmets and Hand Signals
Louisiana law requires a bicycle operator or passenger that is under the age of 12 years old to wear a bike helmet while riding a bike. The law also requires any passengers less than forty pounds, or less then 40 inches tall, to be secured in a retraining seat.
Just like motor vehicles, traffic signals are an important part of road safety. Cyclists are required to signal in the following ways:
- Left turn—hand and arm extended horizontally, with the hand open and the back of the hand to the rear.
- Right turn—hand and arm extended upward at an angle of forty-five degrees from shoulder or elbow, with the hand open and the back of the hand to the rear.
- Stop or decrease speed—start—hand and arm extended downward at an angle of forty-five degrees from shoulder or elbow, with the hand open and the back of the hand to the rear.
These hand singles are not required if the safety of the cyclists requires both hands to control the bike.
The Bottom Line for Bicyclists
Even if everyone practices caution while sharing the road with cyclists, bicycle accidents still happen in Louisiana. Bicyclists face much higher risk of injury and death due to hazards on the road. If you have questions about a bicycle accident or personal injury caused while you were on a bike in northeastern Louisiana, we at the Monroe Law Office of J. Antonio Tramontana want to hear from you.
For a free case review, please fill out the form to the right, or call me directly at (888) 982-1290.