Bicycle Laws in the United States-Past, Present, and Future

Bicycle Laws in the United States-Past, Present, and Future is an ambitious, scholarly article written by attorney Ken McLeod, who also happens to be a member of LAB’s s Legal Affairs Committee. And has written much of the content available on LAB’s site relating to laws and legal matters, e.g. bike-law-university and the paper is reflective of the information there, just perhaps in a more technical/scholarly format.

The full paper is available as published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol 42 Issue 4, 2016.

As I said, it’s an ambitious paper, it attempts to cover all traffic laws as they apply to bicyclists across the United States, and even give some historical perspective.

Where to Ride Laws

I have some issue with this section… It begins with some historical background and on acknowldeged problems revolving around FTR (I normally use the term FTR, AFRAP is another common synonym; for AZ, see arizonas-ftr-law:

Many bicyclists, and bicycle advocates, loath Where to Ride laws. Some bicycling groups criticize Where to Ride laws as discriminatory, overly complicated, and dangerous.

However, he goes on…

Merely repealing them (FTR laws) would most often result in a state’s version of UVC § 11-301(b), applying to bicycles as vehicles “proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic.” Unlike the various Where to Ride laws, UVC § 11-301(b) does not have “exceptions” that contemplate the particular hazards faced by bicyclists that do not have as great an effect on motorists; such as surface hazards, “substandard lane width,” and being hit by right turning vehicles[72]

72. See UNIF. VEHICLE CODE § 11-301(b). Section 11-301(b) is equivalent to a version of UNIF. VEHICLE CODE § 11-1205(a) that is missing parts (3) and (4)

He thus, doesn’t advocate “merely repealing”. However, I don’t see the issues he calls out as being problematical as any issue , he mentions three, the first two are already covered in the SDL (11-301b), since a slow driver on any laned road need only drive/ride in, anywhere in, the right lane. The third is already absent from Arizona’s (and most states’) law.

He does mention two reform-type possibilities,  tweaking of the FTR a la Colorado; this is supposed to offer clarification, and reduce harassment of bicyclists by motorists and police. And/or Massachusetts which has no FTR law (and somehow the SDL law doesn’t apply to bicyclists there, apparently).


I feel like there’s some other things i wanted to point out, but i can’t remember them right now.

If i recall correctly there’s some confusion about sidewalk use laws in states where bicyclists are granted the R&R of a driver of a vehicle.

More from Ken

Ken also supplied very similar info for a 2017 GHSA report A Right to the Road: Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety.

Other 50-state resources

Here’s a google docs sheet of very detailed state-by-state  FTR MBL MSU MSP along with verbiage for each (if any) narrow-lane exception. I wonder who produced it? p.s. It looks like CO has been updated since this sheet was last updated; which coincidentally echos all the model language of the LAB for “where to ride” laws.

In addition to the issues covered above, iamtraffic has graphic guides that cover impeding laws, and a few other areas.


One thought on “Bicycle Laws in the United States-Past, Present, and Future”

  1. in the passage below, i think the word ‘and’ below should read ‘an’:

    Specifically, where in other states a bicyclist would have to show how his behavior fit and “exception” if he were not riding far to the right, in Colorado the person claiming the bicyclist is riding inappropriately must show why

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