Live or travelling to Alabama and want to swap four wheels for two? What do you need to know about staying on the right side of the law?
Riding With Traffic
Alabama has some easy-going laws when it comes to riding a bike alongside traffic. For the most part, everyone who rides a bike are granted all the rights and duties which are applicable to the driver of a vehicle (so they have to signal when turning, obey traffic light signals and stay on the correctly marked parts of the road), but there are a few other things to keep in mind:
- If you ride a bike, you can’t ride on a seat other than the one that attached to your bike. (Um, we guess this prevents people from modding a one-seater to a tandem?)
- You can’t carry more people than your bike allows-so one person on a one-seat bike.
- No clinging to other vehicles! (Good thing Marty McFly wasn’t in Alabama…)
- If you are passing a vehicle, make sure you maintain a safe distance (no less than three feet) on a roadway with a marked lane or a roadway without a marked lane, if the roadway has a speed limit of forty-five miles per hour or less and the roadway doesn’t have a double yellow line separating cars from oncoming traffic indicating a no passing zone. The ‘less than three feet’ only applies if you’re riding within two feet of the right shoulder of the roadway. (yeesh).
- Never ride against traffic
- Ride single file on the streets
- Stop at all stop signs and obe traffic lights
So, what about riding on the roads and the bike paths?
- Ride as near to the right side of the road as you can and be careful when passing a standing vehicle or one driving in the same direction as you.
- Don’t ride more than two abreast on a roadway, unless you are riding on parts of the roadway that are exclusively used for bikes.
- If you have a bike path adjacent to the road, use it!
- You cannot ride upon a sidewalk or a sidewalk area unless there is a permanent or authorized temporary driveway.
Bikes are also subject to the same regulations regarding reading, writing and sending text messages as cars, in that it’s prohibited. And finally, if you’re carrying stuff while you ride, make sure that you still have one hand on the handlebars at all times-no riding hands-free to protect your luggage!
Interestingly enough, since bikes are considered to have the same rights and duties as a car, riders cannot be found guilty of ‘obstructing traffic’ if they cause a bit of a slowdown (for example, climbing a hill). There have been some cases of cyclists getting threatened with tickets by people who don’t know that, but the fact is that cyclists have every right to the road if there is no dedicated bike route or path for them to take. It may be annoying at times, but there it is. Of course, cyclists have to do their best to stay in their bike lane whenever possible.
Accessorize Your Ride
What sort of stuff do you have to have on your bike? We’re not talking about the fun stuff; we’re talking about the important safety stuff that will help keep you from dying (at least so far as Alabama is concerned).
- Every bike that is being used at night must be equipped with a lamp on the front that will emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and an approved red reflector on the rear that is visible between 100 and 600 feet. If your lamp emits red light, it must be visible from a distance of five hundred feet and is used in addition to the reflector.
- You must be able to brake (duh), and it has work on dry, clean, level pavement. But if it works on wet, dirty, bumpy pavement, that’s probably better. (Our opinion, not Alabama’s).
Ok, so really, you don’t need to have much on your bike to keep in legal, though the lamp light is oddly specific.
When Can’t You Ride a Bike?
You can ride on the road, but the bike paths are better when possible, and you must have a good lamp and good brakes. But there will still be instances where you still can’t ride your bike and they are as follows:
- If you’re under the age of sixteen, you cannot operate or be a passenger on a bike unless you wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet that meets the requirements of bike helmet safety as set out by the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation or is approved by the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
- No operating a bike if you take a passenger who weighs less than 40 pounds or is less than 40 inches in height unless that passenger is properly seated and properly secured in a restraining seat.
- Parents or guardians of a person under the age of 16 who knowingly permit the person to operate or be a passenger on a bike without a proper helmet are busted as well.
- You cannot ride your bike while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances.
Alabama does have some regulations regarding “autocycles”, that is to say, a motor vehicle with three wheels rather than two or four, with a steering wheel and seating that doesn’t require straddling! If you run around on an autocycle, you need to have a regular driver’s licence, you must wear a seatbelt and it’s registered, taxed, and titled like a motorcycle. That’s kind of quirky!
Alabama really doesn’t have a ton of strange laws when it comes to regulating the way that cyclists have to behave while on the road. Most of these things are common sense: wearing a helmet, staying on the bike path and lanes, using lights to stay visible in the dark, and otherwise just behaving the way a regular motorist would behave. The big thing to keep in mind is the fact that you really should try to stick to bike paths and lanes as much as possible, for your comfort and safety as well as everyone else. Otherwise, Alabama is a relatively easy place to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to cycling.
Want to read some legalise? This link has all of the codes and laws regarding motor vehicles and traffics. Bicycles have to observe the same rules of the road, so these will apply to your bike.