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Ask the Times: Are bicyclists exempt from the traffic laws that automobile drivers must obey?

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Are bicyclists exempt from the traffic laws that automobile drivers must obey? They seem to think so in Hillcrest, where I share the streets with a growing number of cyclists. I frequently see them running stoplights and stop signs. I honked at one who blatantly ran a light, and he gave me the finger in return. Sometimes they slow down to look around before they run the light. I also see people riding their bikes on the sidewalk. Isn't that supposed to be illegal?

You seem stirred up. If so, you're not alone. From San Francisco to Philadelphia, from Canada to Singapore, motorists are complaining about aggressive bicycle riders. To answer, your last question first, some cities say that bicycles can only be walked, not ridden, on sidewalks. That's not so in Little Rock, which prohibits riding a bicycle on a sidewalk within a business district, but not in residential areas. There, cyclists are supposed to yield the right of way to any pedestrian and to give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian. Generally, cyclists are subject to the same laws and penalties as drivers. A Little Rock city ordinance says:

"Any person operating a bicycle shall obey the instructions of official traffic-control signals, signs, and other control devices applicable to vehicles, unless otherwise directed by a police officer. Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left or U-turn is permitted, no person operating a bicycle shall disobey the direction of any such sign, except where such person dismounts from the bicycle to make any such turn, in which event such person shall then obey the regulations applicable to pedestrians." Unlike motorists, cyclists are not required to have licenses on their vehicles. That makes it harder to track down wrongdoers.

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