Alaska is a big, beautiful state to go bicycling in and there are plenty of trails to take your bike on! Although there aren’t as many cities to worry about in Alaska, there are still several common-sense laws to keep your attention on while cycling so that when you are enjoying the scenery, you don’t have to worry about getting into trouble. What sort of cycling laws do you have to keep in mind while bicycling through Alaska?
When you’re researching bicycle laws in Alaska, you’re going to find that most of your searches lead you to Anchorage laws, which makes sense given that Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska. It’s also the place where you have to worry the most about traffic. So, here are some things to keep in mind when cycling in Anchorage, and certainly these would extend to cycling anywhere in the state.
- Ride with traffic and keep to the right of the road.
- A bike in Alaska is subject to the same rules and regulations as cars, including all traffic regulations like stopping at stop lights.
- Use the correct hand signals when turning or stopping.
- Anchorage requires riders to walk their bicycle across crosswalks or across busy streets at corners.
- You must use headlights and a red tail light or reflector when riding at night, and wear reflective clothing.
- You have to keep at least one hand on your handlebars at all times.
- Pedestrians get the right of way.
- And of course, wearing a helmet is mandatory, but only if you’re under the age of fifteen when on public places. The fine for not using one is rather lax; a warning for the first offense and $25.00 for each offense after that.
While Anchorage is the big city where you will be most likely noticed for not doing these things, you should still keep them in mind when cycling out in the open roads as there are plenty of highway patrols and you don’t want to cut short your ride by getting into trouble with the law.
Some General Laws
There aren’t a ton of laws around riding in Alaska, but there are some unique things to keep in mind while you cycle. One of the big things is the prevalence of large wildlife such as bears and moose. You should always be really careful when riding; wear plenty of reflective gear, have a bell or something else noisy you can use regularly and avoiding riding early in the morning or in the early evening when animals are most active. This isn’t a law per se, but it is a good piece of common sense advice!
Another thing to keep in mind is how you can handle signs that indicate that a left, right or U-turn is not allowed but you have to make one anyway. You can’t disobey that while riding, but if you dismount, go to the extreme right or shoulder of the road, and walk, you can make those turns. (Alaska actually makes this distinction which is interesting enough!) If you’re really not sure, get off your bike and walk because pedestrians always have the right of way.
Finally, keep in mind is that you can’t ride your bike and attach yourself to another vehicle at the same time. No being pulled along for you! And you can’t ride a unicycle, coaster, roller skates or anything like those on the highway. However, all bets are off if the road is closed to motor traffic; then you can unicycle to your heart’s content, hold on to another vehicle if you like and ride without hands on the handlebars. (13 AAC 02.395(f), if you don’t believe me). Alaska has many biking trails that would be very difficult to monitor, so it’s probably easier for the police to just let things like that slide.
Riding in a Lawful Fashion
There aren’t many laws around this, but they are important to keep in mind to cycle safely and keep from getting into trouble.
- You cannot ride more than two abreast unless you’re on a path or part of the road that is exclusively used by bikes.
- Use the road shoulder whenever possible or go as far right as possible.
- Yield to pedestrians.
- You can’t ride your bike on a sidewalk in a business district or where prohibited by traffic-control. (This means you can ride on a sidewalk in other places though!)
- No bicycle racing! (The fact that they have to make this clear should be a little worrying to some…)
- The same distracted driving laws apply to bikes as well: no texting, typing, or reading video displays while riding.
Alaska is missing a few laws that show up in other states. For example, there is no law dictating a specific distance for a car passing a bike, no Share the Road license plates, and no vulnerable road user laws. It’s also not against the law to ride your bike while drunk, but it’s definitely not a good idea. There’s also no regulations to register bikes, but the police strongly recommend it to prevent or at least mitigate theft.
When in doubt, consider you bike the way you would consider a motor vehicle as the laws of Alaska certainly do.
Alaska and Electric Bikes
Alaska has some laws governing electric bikes, beyond simply treating them like a vehicle. In Alaska, an electric bike is any bike with two or three wheels and a motor less than 750w. You must have at least a level M2 permit to ride and be fourteen years of age or older. Riders over the age of sixteen can ride an electric bike with an M1 or M3 license, but they must have an instruction permit for six months before being licensed. Electric bikes can be ridden anywhere that bikes can be ridden.
Bike riding in Alaska is an amazing experience with great views, wildlife and some truly open roads to enjoy. Keep in mind the fairly basic laws, as well as some common sense with regards to your safety, and you can really enjoy the ride.
Want to read some laws for yourself? http://www.dot.state.ak.us/stwdplng/hwysafety/assets/BikeandSafetyManual/Alaska_Laws.pdf