Alabama offers bicyclists some beautiful riding routes. Before you head out on the roads of Birmingham or out in the countryside, take some time to read and understand your rights and review common bicycle rules. Then, you can safely ride and advocate for yourself on state roadways.
Alabama Bicyclist Rights and Responsibilities
In most cases, bicyclists enjoy the same rights to the road as all motorized vehicles. Riders can travel by bicycle on all state roads except for controlled access thoroughfares such as interstates.
As bicyclists are afforded the same rights to the road as motorized vehicles, they must also follow all the same traffic laws. In addition to these laws, bicyclists must also understand bicycle-specific laws. Under Alabama state laws, bicyclists must:
- Ride as far to the right as is safely possible. Bicyclists must use reasonable caution when passing stationary vehicles and those driving in the same direction.
- Use bike paths. If available, bicyclists must use bike paths instead of riding on the roadways. In Alabama, designated bike paths may include special road lanes as well as specifically labeled sidewalks.
- Keep one hand on the handlebar at all times. Bicyclists may not carry any item or package that interferes with the one hand rule.
- Maintain the bike in an appropriate manner. All night-use bikes must contain a visible white light on the front and a red reflector at the rear of the bike for visibility. Bikes must also feature legal braking mechanisms.
- Avoid riding more than two abreast at any time. Unless a path exclusively caters to bicyclists, all riders must ride in a single or double configuration.
- Wear a helmet if 16 or younger. Alabama does not require bicyclists over the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding.
On the roadways, every driver and bicyclist maintains a certain duty of care to use the roadways safely and follow traffic laws. Drivers bear an elevated duty of care as the operators of large, enclosed vehicles. When drivers fail to recognize a bicyclist’s right to the road, accidents happen.
Bicycle Safety and Common Accidents
Vehicle-bicycle accidents commonly take place at intersections because one party failed to follow the rules of the road. Bicyclists must follow the same turning, stopping, and yielding rules of intersections as vehicles. Vehicle drivers must take the time to look for small profile motorcyclists and bicyclists before turning or heading straight through an intersection. When one or both parties fail to follow the rules, serious and deadly accidents can occur.
Other common bicycle accidents occur when bicycles pass stationary vehicles on the side of the road. An inattentive driver may open the door on an oncoming cyclist who may not have time to maneuver around it. These dooring accidents cause serious internal injuries, fractures, and head injuries.
In any bicycle-vehicle accident in Alabama, the responding officers and investigators will look at the behaviors of both the driver and the bicyclist. To avoid liability issues, bicyclists should follow all traffic rules and general safety recommendations for riding a bike. Use these tips to protect your rights:
- Wear a helmet. While the state doesn’t require helmet use, failing to wear one may appear as an act of negligence in a legal claim. Helmets save lives. Wear one.
- Watch for dangerous drivers. Cyclists have rights as vehicles on the roadways, but motor vehicles will not always respect these rights. Use caution around motor vehicles and maneuver safely out of harm’s way.
- Practice defensive riding. Use emergency maneuvering skills to actively avoid a dooring or intersection accident.
Prepare for the unexpected on Alabama’s roadways, and you can handle anything. If you do suffer an injury in a preventable bicycle-vehicle accident, speak to a local personal injury attorney about your options. A legal advocate can help you avoid false liability claims and protect your right to compensation.