Alabama was ranked the 39th most bicycle friendly state by The League of American Bicyclists in its 2017 survey. Areas being considered in this ranking include: infrastructure & funding, education & encouragement, legislation & enforcement, policies & programs, and evaluation & planning. Alabama’s best ranking was in infrastructure & funding for cycling projects, and our lowest ranking was in legislation and enforcement. We need to improve our laws to improve this score, but until then, motorists and cyclists need to have a better understanding of Alabama’s existing bike laws. Here are the laws we receive the most frequent questions about:
Bicycle = Vehicle (Ala. Code §§32-1-1.1(81); 32-5A-260): A person riding a bicycle has all the rights and duties of the driver of a vehicle. This includes the same penalties for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances (Ala. Code §§32-5A-191; 22-27-90). As a cyclist, it’s important to follow the rules of the road, both for safety and to leave motorists with a positive impression of cyclists!
Helmet Law For Minors (Ala. Code §§32-5A-283; 32-5A-285): Whether you are the operator or passenger, a helmet is required for anyone under the age of 16 while riding in public. Thus, those over the age of 16 can make their own decision as to whether they want to wear a helmet.
Lights & Reflectors (Ala. Code §§32-5A-265): While riding at night, a WHITE front-facing light visible for at least 500 feet and a RED rear-facing reflector visible between 100-600 feet when illuminated by a vehicle headlights are both required. A rear light is not required, but will further improve your safety.
Where to ride (Ala. Code §§32-5A-263): Wherever there is a usable path for bicycles adjacent to the roadway (such as a bike lane), a cyclist should use that path. When riding on the road, bicyclists should ride as far to the right as “practicable” – this means that while you should normally stay within 2 feet of the right side of the lane, if there are obstructions or issues with road quality, you can move further into the lane. Also, while some folks feel safer on the sidewalk, cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited under Alabama law (Ala. Code §§32-5A-52).
3-Feet Passing Law (Ala. Code §§32-5A-82) Alabama has a 3-foot law! Motorists shall give cyclists at least 3 feet of space while passing them given that they are no more than 2 feet from the shoulder of the road. The passing vehicle should give you more than half the lane in space to comply with this law, and ideally they will give you the whole lane as they pass.
While at times being on the roads seems scary for cyclists, following the rules and keeping alert around motorists will help you stay safe and minimize motorist-cyclist conflict!