What You Might Not Know About Biking

If you read this blog, there’s a good chance that you ride a bike outdoors once in a while. I see people breaking the law on their bikes nearly every day. Some are people riding a bike around downtown for transportation. Some are just cruising through the neighborhood to enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise. Others are on their way-too expensive bikes in spandex training for a race (I fall into this category most of the time!). The bottom line is that all of these people must follow the same laws when they are riding. So what exactly ARE the laws? You may think you know, but I bet that there are some laws that you are breaking every time you ride.

I started with the state laws by looking up the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) that pertain to bicyclists. There is also Title 601 of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations (KAR) and also the local ordinances for each city or town. Kentucky on-road bicycle laws are contained specifically in Chapter 189 under Title XVI of KRS developed by the State legislature. First of all, it’s important to note that the law recognizes bicyclists as drivers of vehicles. KRS 189 defines bicycles as vehicles and, as such, grants them the right to use Kentucky roadways.

KRS 189.231 states that all vehicles (including bikes) SHALL obey traffic controls applicable thereto, meaning stops lights and stop signs for example. Some states have an “Idaho” law, which allows bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign. It first became law in Idaho (thus the name) in 1982, but has not yet been adopted in many other states. Kentucky has NOT adopted this law, so you must come to a complete stop at all stop signs and wait for a green light at an intersection before proceeding.

KRS 189.300 requires that all vehicles (including bikes) travel on the right side of the road. I see this one violated all the time. Always travel in the same direction as cars and DON’T go the wrong way down a one way street on your bike!

KRS 189.300 also requires that slower vehicles (including bikes) must keep to the right as far as possible to allow faster vehicles free passage. At least three feet of space is recommended for motor vehicles when passing bicyclists and the passing vehicles should move back into the right lane only when well clear of the bicyclist.

KRS 189.330 regulates movements at intersections, such as first to arrive is first to leave and on simultaneous arrivals, the vehicle on the right has first right of way. Bicyclists should always make eye contact with drivers before proceeding through an intersection. If you are turning left and you cannot safely get over to the left side of the lane or to the turning lane (if there is one), they bicyclists should move to the far right and walk their bike across the intersection as a pedestrian.


bike-signalsKRS 189.380 requires hand signals within about 100 feet of the bicyclist’s turn.

•Left arm extended straight out for left turn.

•Left arm crooked up at the elbow for a right turn.

•Left arm down with palm backward for slow or stop.

 Section 1 of KAR 601 requires lights when riding at night (or in dark conditions). Lights must cast a beam 50 feet ahead and be visible from 500 feet ahead.

Section 2 requires a rear red reflector and, if riding at night, a red light visible from 500 feet.

Section 3, while not requiring a bell or whistle, does require the rider to sound an audible warning when passing pedestrians or other bicyclists. How many of us are doing this when we ride? I’m not. I’ll have to work on my “beep, beep” or “on your left” calls!

Sidewalk Riding – this is one that I see violated more than any other law. Sidewalks are controlled by local ordinances, so your specific city/town laws apply. Typically, sidewalk riding is prohibited in downtown Business Districts because of high numbers of pedestrians and doorway entrances. Wrong way sidewalk riding is also prohibited – where bicyclists are riding on the sidewalk on the side opposite the direction of traffic – is the cause of high numbers of vehicle/bicycle collisions. In the city of Louisville , it is ILLEGAL for anyone over the age of 11 to operate a bicycle on any sidewalk in the Metro area. The law also states that no one of ANY age shall ride a bike on a sidewalk downtown.


Section 9 details where bikes can be operated in a manor different than a motor vehicle. It allows for you to ride on the shoulder of the road, and to NOT ride in the designated bike lane if it is blocked or unsafe. It also allows for you to ride two abreast on a single lane. That being said, look back at KRS 189.300 that requires slower vehicles to allow faster ones to pass. If you are riding two abreast and a car is behind you, the law states that you must allow them to pass. So be smart and get in single file or even pull of the road to let cars go by. It’s for your safety and it’s the law.

Some other sections require some more common sense things, like brakes, a seat, at least one hand on the handlebars, and no one riding on the bike that does not have their own seat (like your bud standing on the pegs or sitting on he handlebars). You also cannot ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or other substances – so don’t take your bike to the bar thinking you will be cool to ride it home after pounding shots all night! It also states that a helmet is NOT required (unless you are under 18 and riding in a City of Louisville Metro Park), but as someone who continues to pay higher health insurance premiums because people are stupid…please, everyone wear a helmet!

So you might think that there’s no chance a police officer would “pull you over” on your bike for violating a traffic law? While it DOES happen, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that the penalty for violating any of the state laws outline above is anywhere between $20 and $500 per violation. So the threat of a fine probably isn’t enough to deter you from breaking the law, but your safety and life should be!

So be safe out there and don’t be afraid to tell your fellow cyclists about some of these laws. There are lots of drivers that hate cyclists and part of the reason is that we do not follow the laws. If you expect to be treated as a vehicle on the road, you must follow the same rules as the guy in the F-350 Dually or the Toyota Prius that just flipped you off!

Addendum (3/1/16):

Senate Bill 80 , currently under review by the Senate Transportation Committee, would amend the current revised statute that dictates how motor vehicles are to overtake cyclists on state highways. The 3-foot cushion between a vehicle and a bicycle has now become a widespread standard requirement across the country, with nearly half of U.S. states enacting the requirement, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Kentucky Legislature KRS Chapter 189

Kentucky Administrative Regulations Title 601

Louisville-Jefferson Country Metro Government Title VII: Traffic Code, Chapter 74: Bicycles and Motorcycles

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One Response to “What You Might Not Know About Biking”

  1. Charlie Fell March 4, 2016 at 10:25 AM #

    § 601 KAR 14:020. Bicycle safety standards

    RELATES TO: KRS 189.010, 189.030(1), 189.450

    NECESSITY, FUNCTION, AND CONFORMITY: KRS 189.287 requires the cabinet to promulgate administrative regulations to establish standards for bicycle safety and equipment. This administrative regulation establishes the equipment and safety requirements required in the operation of a bicycle.

    Section 1. Definitions.
    (1) “Bicycle”:
    (a) Means a device with an attached seat propelled primarily by human power upon which a person rides astride or upon, regardless of the number and size of the wheels in contact with the ground; and
    (b) Does not mean a wheelchair designed for a person with a disability.
    (2) “Hazard” means a condition present on the roadway that constitutes a danger to a bicycle rider such as:
    (a) A fixed or moving object;
    (b) A parked or moving vehicle;
    (c) A pedestrian;
    (d) A surface irregularity; or
    (e) An animal.
    (3) “Shared lane” means a single lane of traffic less than fourteen (14) feet in width not including the gutter pan.
    Section 2. Lights and Reflectors.
    (1) A bicycle operated on a highway during the hours or atmospheric conditions described in KRS 189.030(1) shall display at least one (1) front light on either the bicycle or the bicyclist that is visible for 500 feet and capable of revealing substantial objects at least fifty (50) feet in front of the bicycle.
    (2) A bicycle if operated on a highway or highway shoulder shall display on either the bicycle or the bicyclist:
    (a) One (1) red reflector or red light visible for at least 100 feet from the rear of the bicycle; and
    (b) One (1) red light or a flashing red light visible from the rear of the bicycle for at least 500 feet during the hours or atmospheric conditions described in KRS 189.030(1).
    Section 3. Horn or Bell.
    (1) A bicycle may be equipped with a bell, horn, or other device capable of making an abrupt sound, but shall not be equipped with a siren or whistle.
    (2) A person operating a bicycle shall shout or sound the bell, horn, or other sound device as necessary to warn pedestrians or other bicycles of the approach of the bicycle.
    Section 4. Brakes. A bicycle shall not be operated on a highway or highway shoulder without a brake or brakes adequate to control the movement of, or to stop, the bicycle within fifteen (15) feet at a speed of ten (10) miles per hour on a dry, level, clean pavement.
    Section 5. Seat.
    (a) A bicyclist if operating on a highway or highway shoulder shall ride upon a seat attached to the bicycle.
    (b) A bicyclist operating on a highway or highway shoulder may transport a person or persons upon a seat or carrying device attached to the bicycle in a manner in which the seat or device is manufactured and designed to be used.
    (2) A bicycle operated on a highway or highway shoulder shall not carry more than the number of persons for which the bicycle is designed or safely equipped.
    Section 6. Transporting a Package and Attaching to a Motor Vehicle.
    (1) A bicyclist operating on a highway or highway shoulder shall not carry a package, bundle, or article that prevents the operator from keeping one (1) hand on the handle bars.
    (2) A bicyclist operating on a highway or highway shoulder shall not attach either the bicycle or himself or herself to a motor vehicle.
    Section 7. Operation of Bicycles.
    (1) A bicycle shall be operated in the same manner as a motor vehicle, except that the traffic conditions established in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection shall apply.
    (a) A bicycle may be operated on the shoulder of a highway unless prohibited by law or ordinance.
    (b) If a highway lane is marked for the exclusive use of bicycles, the operator of a bicycle shall use the lane unless:
    1. Travelling at the legal speed;
    2. Preparing for or executing a left turn;
    3. Passing a slower moving vehicle;
    4. Avoiding a hazard;
    5. Avoiding the door zone of a parked vehicle; or
    6. Approaching a driveway or intersection where vehicles are permitted to turn right from a lane to the left of the bicycle lane.
    (2) Not more than two (2) bicycles shall be operated abreast in a single highway lane unless part of the roadway is exclusively for bicycle use. Persons riding two (2) abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.
    (3) A bicycle operated in a highway lane with other vehicle types shall keep to the right unless:
    (a) Preparing for and executing a left turn;
    (b) Passing a slower moving vehicle;
    (c) The lane is too narrow to be considered a shared lane. A bicycle may be ridden far enough to the left to prevent overtaking vehicles from attempting to pass in the same lane;
    (d) Approaching an intersection or driveway where right-turn movements are permitted. A bicycle may be ridden far enough to the left to avoid potential conflicts with right turning vehicles;
    (e) It is necessary to avoid a hazard. A bicycle may be ridden far enough to the left to provide a reasonable safety space to the right;
    (f) The bicycle is operating on a one (1) way street with two (2) or more marked traffic lanes. A bicyclist may keep to the left side of the roadway subject to the conditions in paragraphs (b) through (e) of this subsection;
    (g) It is necessary for a cyclist to use a lane other than the right lane to continue his or her route;
    (h) Preparing for and executing a left turn; or
    (i) The bicycle is operating at or near a speed consistent with the prevailing flow of traffic.
    (a) A bicycle may be operated on a sidewalk or a crosswalk unless prohibited by law or ordinance.
    (b) A bicyclist operating on a sidewalk or crosswalk shall have the rights and duties of a pedestrian in the same circumstances.
    (c) A bicyclist using a sidewalk or crosswalk shall:
    1. Slow to the speed of an ordinary walk where pedestrians are present or reasonably expected to be present or if approaching a crosswalk, driveway, or other crossing where a motor vehicle is expected
    2. Not suddenly leave the sidewalk or crosswalk and move into the path of another vehicle that is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard; and
    3. Yield to pedestrians using the sidewalk or crosswalk.
    (d) A bicyclist operating on a crosswalk or sidewalk shall obey an official traffic control device applicable to a pedestrian unless otherwise directed by a police officer or other officially designated person.
    (e) A bicyclist operating on a crosswalk or sidewalk shall yield the right of way to a vehicle if crossing the road at a point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
    (5) A bicyclist operating on a highway or highway shoulder may proceed after stopping and if safe against a red light if a traffic signal fails to detect the bicycle.
    Section 8. Bicycle Parking.
    (1) Unless prohibited, a bicycle may be parked on a sidewalk if it does not impede the movement of pedestrians or traffic.
    (2) A bicycle may be parked in the roadway at an angle to the curb or edge of the roadway at a location where bicycle parking is allowed.
    (3) A bicycle shall not be parked or stopped as established for a vehicle in KRS 189.450(5)(b) through (j).
    (4) A bicycle may be parked on the roadway abreast of another bicycle or bicycles near the side of a roadway where parking of vehicles is allowed.
    Cite as 601 KAR 14:020

    History. 20 Ky.R. 1508; Am. 2037; eff. 2-10-94; 42 Ky.R. 25; eff. 7-7-2015.



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