Wondering what to expect from bike laws in Louisiana? While many of the laws in Louisiana are the same as many other states, there are some differences that can cause some difficulties if you are not aware of them (particularly around young riders). What should you know about riding legally and safely in Louisiana?
Where You are Allowed to Ride on the Roads
Louisiana has most of the same laws of riding as most of the other states in America, but there are a couple of differences that make it stand out. A few basics:
- Cyclists must ride as close to the right of the road as is practical, unless the rider is overtaking or passing another bike/vehicle going in the same direction, when preparing to turn left, when avoiding obstacles, when approaching a right turn, or when riding on a road or highway where there are two or more marked lanes and traffic is travelling in only one direction (but only when preparing to turn left).
- If there are paths to be used beside a road, cyclists are to use those, not the road.
- Cyclists cannot ride more than two abreast on the road and can only ride more than two abreast where bike paths allow it.
- It’s… problematic, to ride on the sidewalk, unless the rider is under the age of 12. (This is different from many other states where it’s often legal and left up to the municipalities to determine otherwise). Some lawyers say it’s downright illegal, while the law doesn’t specifically say one way or the other.
- Bikes, trucks, and cars are all expected to share the road, though it’s still important for the cyclist to pay very close attention to what’s going on around them.
- Louisiana does not observe the Idaho stop law; if the light doesn’t detect you, you cannot simply ride through.
- Louisiana treats bikes as vehicles
- It’s illegal to ‘latch’ your bike on to a moving vehicle to let the vehicle drag you while you ride
- You must ride with at least one hand on the handlebars and on a bike seat
- No riding with buddies without the proper seating!
- It’s illegal to ride a bike on the interstate
It’s most important to bear in mind the difference in riding on sidewalks (Louisiana frowns on that), and the fact that it’s not illegal to ride off the bike path, but it’s certainly not advisable either. It’s also not illegal to ride while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This was held up by the Louisiana supreme court which decided that the DUI law did not apply to bikes because they are too ambiguous in their application. Lawmakers in Louisiana have not yet decided otherwise, so you can drink and cycle. (We wouldn’t recommend that).
Safety Gear while Riding
The big question as always here? Helmets or no helmets? In Louisiana, it’s illegal for riders or passengers under the age of 12 to ride without a helmet. If you’re over the age of 12, it’s not illegal to ride without one, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Furthermore, passengers who weigh less than forty pounds or are less than forty inches tall must be riding in a restraining seat.
The bike itself should be equipped with brakes that can make a bike skid on dry, level, clean pavement. It also needs to have a lamp that can emit a white light visible for up to five hundred feet on the front, a light on the rear that has a flashing or steady red light which is visible for up to five hundred feet and a red reflector on the rear and reflectors on either side of the bike that allow the bike to be visible for up to six hundred feet by the light of a car.
And it’s illegal to sell a bike that does not have these things! This is nothing new for many states, though Louisiana is more lax about the use of helmets than other places are.
Louisiana also explicitly lays out the legalities of proper hand signalling. These hand signals are universal, but Louisiana is quite deliberate in requiring their use.
- Left turn by extending the hand and arm out horizontally
- Right turn by hand and arm extended up
- Stop or slow, hand and arm extended downward
It is noted that if the safety of the cyclist trumps these signals, then the signals need not be done.
Louisiana Laws and Electric Bikes
Electric bikes do have a very small place in Louisiana laws right now. Electric bikes are defined as a motorbike with pedals and a motor that is no more than 50cc.
The bike also must have an automatic transmission and allow for a maximum speed of up to 25mph on a flat surface. Louisiana does not require any sort of licensing or registration, but riders must be over the age of sixteen, and if they are under the age of eighteen, the rider must wear a helmet.
Riders over the age of eighteen can go without a helmet if they have health insurance with medical benefits of at least $10,000 and can prove it to police. Electric bikes can ride in the same places as regular bikes-as far to the right as possible on roads and they can be ridden on bike paths unless a specific path does not allow it.
Bike laws in Louisiana are like bike laws in many other states in America, though there are a few key differences to bear in mind and some things to watch out for. Sidewalk riding seems contentious with some lawyers saying don’t do it, and other sources saying there is no law allowing or restricting it.
Bike helmets are also treated with more of a laissez-faire attitude, though if you’re riding an e-bike, you better be medically insured in case of an accident (Louisiana has specified this)! All in all, it’s pretty easy to ride legally and have fun in Louisiana as long as you ride sensibly. Enjoy!