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Riding Safe- Road Laws for Cyclists and Skateboarders

Updated on August 19, 2014

Skateboarding Can Be Fun if You Do it Safely

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The Dangers of Bike Riding and Skateboarding

Each year in the United States, around 20,000 bike riders are killed or hurt because of an accident on the road. During 2012, over 100 people were killed and 3,000 people were severely injured because of bike accidents.

Despite what you may think, over three quarters of these accidents happen during the day, when it is bright and sunny out, and only 20% of these accidents occur at night. Over half of accidents reported in 2012 were not a result of negligence by the cyclist, but rather negligence on the part of the driver that collided with the cyclist.

Although skateboarding accidents are not as common, they do happen, and when they occur they are typically a result of negligence on the road- either on the part of the skateboarder or another person on the road. In 2012 almost 50 skateboarders died from skateboard related injuries, and hundreds of riders were injured.

Many of these injuries, both bike riding and skateboarding, can be avoided if people properly follow the laws of the road. By educating cyclists, skateboarders and drivers, many of these injuries and deaths can be avoided.

Biking 101: Sidewalk or Street?

Bike riders by law are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk unless it is labeled as a shared path for both pedestrians and cyclists. When a sidewalk is a shared path, it is typically large, well marked as a shared path and broken into two parts by a line, designating where it is safe to walk and where it is safe to ride.

Cycling on the sidewalk puts the lives of pedestrians at risk, no matter how strong of a rider you are, which is why by law, cyclists should remain on the street and not the sidewalk.

Although this is a general rule, almost all laws that apply to bike riding are governed at a state level and laws vary slightly depending on where you are riding. Be sure to familiarize yourself with local cycling laws before riding in a new place.

Pay Attention to Road Signs While Cycling or Skateboarding

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Are you a cyclist or skateboarder?

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Rules for Bike Riding on the Road

There are many rules that apply to the majority of bike riders while using a main road. One of these rules states that cyclists need to stay as close to the edge of the right side of the street as possible. They must use caution when passing stationary vehicles and are lawfully obligated to stop at red lights and yield to yellow lights, just like other vehicles using the road.

If the street a cyclist is riding on has a designated bicycle lane, the rider is required to use that lane unless it is obstructed by cars, buses or other objects that interfere with the cyclists ability to ride safely.

Most states have speed regulations for cyclists who use the road, typically requiring cyclists to remain under 25 miles per hour and prohibiting them from streets with speed limits exceeding 40 miles per hour.

If a cyclist finds himself behind a turning vehicle but is not making a turn himself, it is okay for him to move to the safe side of the vehicle so as to not interfere with the vehicle making a turn. When cycling on a one way street, riders should stick to the left hand side of the street as long as it is safe.

Parking Bikes Legally

There are regulations set up to keep bikes parked in a manner that does not interfere with drivers, pedestrians or other cyclists.

These laws state that bikes may only be parked in designated areas, and may not be positioned in a way that interferes with a sidewalk or street. Bikes may not be parked in any way that interferes with another vehicles ability to get out of a parking spot, assuming the vehicle is parked legally.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road to Avoid Accidents

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Basic Skateboarding Laws

In many cases, skateboarders are subject to the same rules as bicycle riders. However there are places where bikes are permitted and skateboards are not.

Many public parks and areas surrounding government offices prohibit the use of skateboarding. Be sure to check for signs before skateboarding in a new place.

Similar to laws that regulate cyclists, skateboarding laws are regulated on a state and local level.They vary from state to state and even from town to town.

Some areas require the use of protective gear, such as a helmet and shoulder/knee pads when using a skateboard in certain places.

Were you aware of the landowner's responsibility to keep the sidewalk in front of their property in good shape?

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A Word of Caution to Landowners and Non-Riders

Not only should cyclists and skateboarders be aware of the laws of low-speed vehicles, but so should non-riders. Many laws pertaining to bike riding and skateboarding are written in a way that in the event of an injury or accident, the rider is not always liable.

This can happen when a collision occurs between a bike and a vehicle, a skateboard and a vehicle, a bike and another bike, a skateboard and another skateboard, as well as a pedestrian and either a bike or a skateboard. Laws regulated fault in these cases vary from state to state.

Another instance where non-riders could end up responsible for the injury of a skateboarder or bike rider is if the rider gets injured due to a poorly kept sidewalk in front of the landowner's property. If a landowner has been found to be neglegent to take care of damage that interfered with the biker's or the skateboarder's ability to ride, they can be responsible for medical bills and repair costs.

FAQs from Skateboards, Cyclists and Pedestrians

Q: What, if any, are the laws pertaining to transporting goods while cycling?

A: There are laws that pertain to transporting goods on a bicycle. Most states require riders to be able to steer with two hands while riding a bicycle. Packages can go in a basket or in a backpack, but cannot take up either of the bike riders hands.

Q: What are the penalties for violating skateboarding or cycling laws?

A: If you are found to be violating a skateboarding or cycling law, you typically will get a warning for the first offense, a fine for the second offense, and possibly an arrest for the third offense, or a more serious first or second offense.

Q: Is it illegal to ride a bike or skateboard without a helmet?

A: In many cases. However, most states do have instances were helmets ARE required, such as when a skateboarder is under a certain age. Then there are states like California have rules in place requiring all bicyclists to wear helmets when riding on the road. Always be sure to verify the laws for the specific area before riding.


If you have a question you would like answered about skateboarding or cycling laws, please post it in the comment section and I will answer as quickly as possible!

© 2014 Kathleen Odenthal

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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      4 years ago from Bridgewater

      I think helmets should be required for all bike riders. The amount of bike accidents in NYC is OUT OF CONTROL! And now we have this "rental bikes" available so the city is just a pure mess! And people are getting hurt and even killed because they don't know the safe way to ride through a city.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 years ago from Central Florida

      Great hub, Kathleen. In Florida we have a law that children under 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bike. I notice the professional cyclists wear them all the time.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      4 years ago from Bridgewater

      Eddy thanks for reading and sharing! Haven't seen you in awhile!

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      4 years ago from Bridgewater

      Oh boy! Sounds like New York City! When I found out about the speed limit for cyclists I almost laughed because I know that no one follows that law! Thanks for commenting Alancaster

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Thanks for the enlightenment. Cyclists, pedestrians, motorists and motorcyclists are covered in the UK by the Highway Code, but not skateboards or even invalid carriages/mobility scooters. Whilst quad-bikes qualify in the same category as three wheeler cars and motorcyclists (same license for drivers of vehicles with two-stroke engines), cyclists are a sort of ' voluntary' category of road users. Under-age cyclists are legally permitted to use the footpath/pavement (sidewalk in the US), teenagers come into a 'grey area' and adults are supposed to ride at the road edge unless turning into a road opposite.

      Cyclists used to have mirrors and a bell on the handlebars, but that's gone by the board. As long as they have lights 'fore and aft' they should be OK. Again, when I have driven on dark or poorly lit roads at night - although dusk is worse - I've passed cyclists wearing dark jackets with no lights, reflectors or hi-viz belts/jackets . Also cyclists here have got into bad habits, like cycling through red traffic lights and riding down pavements. Skateboarders are the least of our worries, with roller-skaters cruising across busy high streets or down pavements, mobility scooters thundering along. How about that character who crossed the US on a motor mower? We've got some running along the hard shoulder of motorways (freeways in the US).

      Welcome to the 21st Century, Kathleen.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and very useful Voting up and sharing.

      Eddy.

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