Bike laws in Arkansas are divided into six general principles which allows riders to follow state and local law easily. In fact, most of the documentation around understanding the laws and how they apply to bikes break it down into these principles to make it easy to understand and to bring common-sense into the equation.
The Six Principles
These six principles are meant to guide cyclists safely through the laws of Arkansas and allow people to understand and simplify their roles as safe drivers along with motorists. But, these are principles; not necessarily laws. They are as follows:
- Never drive on the left or on a sidewalk; always ride on the right. This is very much a principle; it is only illegal to ride on the sidewalk in business districts in certain cities: Little Rock, North Little Rocks, Hot Springs, and Maumelle. Conway and Fayetteville and Fort Smith directly prohibit this; North Little Rock directly prohibits bikes from all city sidewalks. So, it’s actually not against the law to ride on the sidewalk (unless you’re in one of these towns), but it’s a good idea to avoid doing it so that you don’t crash into pedestrians or into cars pulling out of driveways.
- Obey all traffic signals and traffic control devices.
- On important or large roads, yield to crossing traffic.
- If you’re changing lanes or moving laterally on the road, yield to traffic in the new lane or in your line of travel (you know, so you don’t get smoked by a car!)
- When coming up on an intersection, position yourself to go in the direction you need to go.
- Between intersection, make sure you are positioned with respect to your speed compared to other traffic so that you’re not blocking things.
There are actual laws in place as well, but they stem from or reference these principles, meaning that if you understand these, you’re going to naturally follow the laws.
The Actual Laws for Cyclists
Arkansas does have some laws for cycling and some of them are oddly specific while other things are completely lacking. Furthermore, some towns have even more specific ordinances for riders while others are more freewheeling (ha!), so it’s important to look up what you’re allowed or not allowed to do when riding around different areas of Arkansas.
Strange Safety Laws
Arkansas law specifies that you have a white headlight on the front of your bike and a red tail light on the rear, visible from at least five hundred feet away. And the reflectors that come on your bike when you buy it aren’t good enough! You must use active lighting systems, so be prepared to do some replacements. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing of course, but it is oddly rigid compared to what’s missing:
- Children or adults are not required to wear a bike helmet while riding. BUT Little Rock and Fayetteville requires that a bicycle be equipped with a bell or something else to warn pedestrians. Furthermore, you must have a brake that will make your wheel skid on dry and level pavement. And anyway, it’s still a good idea to wear a helmet and have great brakes, even if you won’t get in trouble for not wearing one.
- A bike isn’t defined as a vehicle. In fact, bikes are more closely related to horseback riding or being pulled in a cart, so far as the law is considered: they both fall under the Uniform Vehicle Code. (“Ever person riding a bicycle or an animal, or driving any animal drawing a vehicle upon a highway, shall have all the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions of this act by which their nature can have no applicability”.- A.C.A. § 27-49-111) So, you do have all the rights and duties of a vehicle, but a bike isn’t actually a vehicle at all.
- As noted before, you can ride on the sidewalks in many places, but it’s probably not a good idea. You can also ride on the left side of the road, legally speaking, but again, it’s probably not a fantastic idea.
- You should keep your hands on the bike at all times, but if you must take them both off for safety, you can.
- You can ride two abreast, as long as you’re not impeding traffic.
- A cyclist on a bike is considered to have to abide by the same laws as motor vehicles which means they can’t cross at crosswalks. But if you dismount, you are a pedestrian and can cross at crosswalks. This is extremely common.
Arkansas may not have many laws in terms of bikes, but the state did do something interesting: it was the fifth state to sign legislation for electric bikes! Electric bikes are bikes with an automatic transmission and a motor that doesn’t displace in excess of 50cc. They can only carry one rider at a time, must have the same lighting systems as regular bikes, and riders must have a motorized bike permit which means that the bike doesn’t have to be registered. Electric bikes cannot ride on highways or sidewalks.
Bikes and Cars
Generally speaking, bikes are subject to the same rules of the road as a car. This means signalling intent through gestures, riding with the flow, obeying traffic signals, using a bike path when possible, and remaining visible. You also shouldn’t be riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So, even though bikes aren’t considered vehicles, they are subject to the same responsibilities and rights as one.
Arkansas may have some legal gaps when it comes to some safety laws, but it’s important to keep what is on the books in mind, as well as those principles that allow you to ride safely and legally. Arkansas does have the cool distinction of being an early adaptor of electric bike law, paving the way for other states to do the same. So long as you are riding sensibly and safely, you’ll be able to ride your bike in Arkansas for your entire life. Enjoy!
Here is some legalese for you to peruse about Arkansas and bicycles:
This is a nice brochure too:
And finally, Arkansas and electronic bikes: