BACKGROUND AND THE UNIFORM VEHICLE CODE
“Although bicycle law is a relatively new specialty within the law, first appearing in the late 1980s, its roots date back to the 1880s and 1890s, when cyclists were using the courts to assert a legal right to use the roads. In 1895, George B. Clementson, an American attorney, wrote The Road Rights and Liabilities of Wheelmen, the first book on bicycle law, in which he discussed the seminal cases of the 1880s and 1890s, which were financed by Albert Pope of Columbia Bicycles, and through which cyclists gained the right to the road.” [Quote taken from Wikipedia]
Basically, the law of the land regarding bicycles on public roads is the U.S. Uniform Vehicle Code. This, along with existing case law and state & local bike laws and ordinances, effectively comprises the rules that cyclists must be concerned with. In most states bikers are granted all of the rights and subject to all of the duties afforded to other drivers on the road.
The Uniform Vehicle Code Section 11 deals with bicycles on public roads.
The following excerpts are quoted from the State of NJ Department of Transportation website.
- 39:4-14.1 RIGHTS & DUTIES OF PERSONS ON BICYCLES. Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway is granted all the rights and subject to all of the duties of the motor vehicle driver.
- 39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11 OPERATING REGULATIONS. Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near to the right roadside as practicable exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. A bicyclist may move left under any of the following conditions: 1) To make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket; 2) To avoid debris, drains, or other hazardous conditions on the right; 3) To pass a slower moving vehicle; 4) To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic; 5) To travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file. Every person riding a bicycle shall ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic.In New Jersey, the law states a bicyclist must obey all state and local automobile driving laws. A parent may be held responsible for the child’s violation of any traffic law.
- Title 39:4-10.1 HELMET LAW. In New Jersey, anyone under 17 years of age that rides a bicycle or is a passenger on a bicycle, or is towed as a passenger by a bicycle must wear a safety helmet.All helmets must be properly fastened and fitted. Bicycle helmets must meet the federal standards developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) effective March 10, 1999 that ensure the best head protection and strong chin straps to keep the helmet in place during a fall or collision. Also acceptable are helmets meeting the Snell Memorial Foundation’s 1990 Standard for Protection Headgear.Exemptions from the helmet requirement are persons who operate or ride a bicycle (as a driver or a passenger) on a roadway closed to motor traffic; on a trail, route, course, boardwalk, path or area set aside only for the use of bicycles. These exemptions do not apply if the areas of operation are adjacent to a roadway and not separated from motor vehicle traffic by a barrier that prevents the bicycle from entering the roadway. Bicyclists or passengers operating in an area where helmets are not required who need to cross a road or highway should walk with the bicycle.Initial violators of the helmet law will receive warnings. For minors, the parent or legal guardian may be fined a maximum of $25 for the 1 st offense and a maximum of $100 for subsequent offense(s), if lack of parental supervision contributed to the offense.
PA cycling law (synopsis).
NY State cycling safety guidelines & law (synopsis).
NYC cycling law (synopsis).
The official State of Delaware bicycle laws are detailed on the Delaware Governmental site.
Common interpretations of the laws can be found on the Downstate Delaware Striders & Riders Club page and on the Delaware Bicycle Council’s Delaware Bike Laws page.
- The UVC is not readily availble on the Internet. “The Uniform Vehicle Code is a privately prepared set of United States traffic laws prepared by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, a private non-profit organization. Most of the members are state governments, in addition to some related organizations. The extent to which the code is used varies by state.” [Quote taken from Wikipedia]
- A history of the UVC can be found here.
- The road cyclist’s oft-quoted bible is Bicycling & The Law by Bob Mionske, J.D. (Foreword by Lance Armstrong).