Basic Bicycle Safety and Bicycle Laws

If you plan to ride bicycles, it's best to inform yourself of your local and state laws and follow safety practices. As I always say, as a cyclist, you can know all of the rules and your rights, but that doesn't mean every driver on the road does too. It may not matter much if you know you have the right-of-way, but a driver doesn't know (or care).

Always be observant and aware while you're riding, whether you're riding for fun, commuting to work, running errands, or getting exercise.



If you're under 12 years old, you're required by law to wear a helmet. If you're over 12, it's not the law, but it's certainly something smart that you really should do. Helmets have proven to save lives in bike crashes. Find you a helmet you like and wear it. (Mine is from Nutcase.)
RS 32:199:
§199. Bicycle helmets; restraining seats
B. With regard to any bicycle used on a public roadway, public bicycle path, or other public right-of-way, no parent, guardian, or person with legal responsibility for the safety and welfare of a child shall knowingly allow any of the following:
(1) Such child under the age of twelve to operate or ride as a passenger on a bicycle without wearing an approved helmet of good fit fastened securely upon the head with the straps of the helmet.
(2) Such child who weighs less than forty pounds or is less than forty inches in height to be a passenger on a bicycle without being properly seated in and adequately secured to a restraining seat.
C. Notice shall be provided in accordance with the following provisions:
(1) A person regularly engaged in the business of selling or renting bicycles shall post a sign stating the following: "Louisiana law requires a bicycle operator or passenger under the age of twelve years to wear a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle. Louisiana law also requires a passenger who weighs less than forty pounds or is less than forty inches in height to be properly seated in and adequately secured to a restraining seat."
Acts 2001, No. 447, §1, eff. March 1, 2002.

Bicycle safety even (especially) on vacation in Sausalito, California


Every cyclist needs a white headlight and red tail light. And you need to use them when it's dark outside. There's not much I hate more than seeing someone ride at night with no lights on. Lights are not expensive and are one of the most effective safety measures.
RS 32:329.1:
§329.1. Bicycles; front lamps; rear lamps; side and rear reflectors
A. Any bicycle when in use at the times specified in R.S. 32:301 shall be equipped with the following:
(1) A lamp mounted on the front that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front. A generator-powered lamp that emits light only when the bicycle is moving may be used to meet this requirement.
(2) A lamp mounted on the rear that shall emit either a flashing or steady red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear.
(3) A red reflector mounted on the rear and a reflector on each side facing outward at a right angle to the bicycle frame that shall be visible from all distances from one hundred feet to six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.
B. A bicycle or its operator may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by Subsection A of this Section, except that red lamps and red reflectors shall not be used on the front of the bicycle and white lamps and white reflectors shall not be used on the rear of the bicycle.
D. No person shall operate any bicycle on a state highway, parish road, or city street at a time specified in R.S. 32:301 unless such bicycle is equipped with lamps and reflectors to comply with Subsection A of this Section. Whoever violates this Section shall be subject to a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars which shall include all costs of court.
Acts 2011, No. 98, §1; Acts 2011, No. 244, §1.



State law and Lafayette ordinance differs on whether cyclists can ride on sidewalks. State law neither allows or prohibits riding on sidewalks. Lafayette ordinance doesn't allow riding on the sidewalk where prohibited by official traffic-control devices. So yes, that means you ride in the road. Here's where that "share the road" concept comes in again. And you ride with traffic, not against it.

Bike paths are specifically marked to allow bike traffic, so you're clear there.

And when you're in the road, you need to stay as far to the right as is safe. And it is okay to ride on the shoulder.
RS 32:197:
§197. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths
A. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except under any of the following circumstances:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) 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. For purposes of this Paragraph, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
B. Repealed by Acts 2011, No. 244, §3.
C. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
D. Persons riding bicycles shall be allowed to operate on the shoulder of a roadway.
E. Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or a highway, where there are two or more marked traffic lanes and traffic travels in only one direction, may ride as near the left-hand curb or shoulder of that roadway as practicable when preparing for a left turn.
Acts 1962, No. 310, §1; Acts 2010, No. 618, §§2, 4; Acts 2010, No. 813, §1; Acts 2011, No. 244, §3.
LCG Ordinance (page 1, Sec. 86-73):
(a) A person propelling a cycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a sidewalk, shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
(b) A person shall not ride a cycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a sidewalk, where such use of cycles is prohibited by official traffic control devices.


Yes, all traffic laws still apply to you, even if you're on two wheels. You still have to stop at stop signs and red lights, and yield when appropriate.
RS 32:194:
§194. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles
Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway of this state shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this Chapter, except as to special regulations in this Part, including special regulations applying to peace officers utilizing bicycles in furtherance of their official duties, and except as to those provisions of this Chapter which by their very nature can have no application.
Acts 1962, No. 310, §1; Acts 2011, No. 98, §1.


Lafayette ordinance requires that bicycles be registered with the city. For $5 you get a sticker to put on your bike, and your bike's description goes on file. In the event your bike is stolen, having it registered increases the chances it'll get recovered. Check with your city to see if they require registration.

LCG Ordinance (page 2, Division 2)
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or use a cycle upon any of the streets unless such cycle has been properly registered as provided in this Division.



THREE FEET!!! All the way around until you have safely passed the cyclist. It's required by law. And it's also just a courtesy. Cyclists belong on the road (see that city ordinance that says we're not allowed on the sidewalk), so you just have to accept it.

Don't be the asshole sideswiping a cyclist with your side mirror, or passing so fast you make their hair a little extra windblown.
RS 32:76.1:
§76.1. Limitations on passing bicycle
A. This Section shall be known as the Colin Goodier Protection Act.
B. The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall exercise due care while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle and shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. An operator of a motor vehicle may pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so
C. The Department of Public Safety and Corrections, office of motor vehicles, is directed to include a summary of this Section in any instructional publication for drivers.
D. The Department of Transportation and Development is directed to place signs in areas frequently used by bicyclists in an effort to make motorists aware of the need to share the road with bicyclists
E. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is directed to engage in a public awareness campaign to notify motorists and bicyclists of the provisions of this Section.
F. Any person who violates this Section shall be fined not more than two hundred fifty dollars
Acts 2009, No. 147, §1; Acts 2010, No. 618, §1.


It is illegal to harass a cyclist. We might piss you off, but I'm sure a ticket from a city cop for harassing a cyclist would piss you off more.

Once again, share the road. And be nice. The number of cyclists on the road is growing, so learn to let it go. Cyclists are in your way for maybe 30 seconds. Is it really worth harassing or driving unsafe just because you're annoyed?
RS 32:201:
§201.  Harassment of bicyclists prohibited; penalties
A. It shall be unlawful to harass, taunt, or maliciously throw objects at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. 
B. Any person who violates this Section shall be fined not less than two hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days.
Acts 2009, No. 147, §1.


Next up for National Bike Month, I'll be sharing different types of bikes, local bike routes/trails, and tips for commuting.

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