The following statutes provide the responsibilities and duties of Louisiana bike riders. All cyclists must be aware of these requirements for their safety and the protection of others.
La. R.S. 32:194 - Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles
Section 194 provides bicyclists all the rights and duties that are given to motorists on Louisiana highways. Put simply, a bicycle must behave like a motor vehicle on the road, e.g. no riding in the wrong direction, must use hand signals when turning, etc. For a review of hand signals, see Title 32 Section 106. Signals are given with the left arm. For a left turn, point the arm out straight. For a right turn, extend your left arm at a 45 degree angle from the shoulder or elbow. For bicyclists, the right arm may also be used for a right turn in the same manner as the left arm is used for a left turn. Finally, a rule was added to this section in 2010 that reduces the requirement of a continuous hand signal for bicyclists where the arm is needed to control the bicycle.
La. R.S. 32:346 - Brakes on bicycles
Section 346 requires that every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
La. R.S. 32:329.1 - Bicycles; front lamps; rear lamps; side and rear reflectors
The rules requiring the use of lighted lamps for motor vehicles also apply to bicycles. For example, bicycles must use lights at night, in the rain, or in tunnels. Section 329.1 prescribes the rules for placement of lights on bicycles.
A minimum of two lamps and three reflectors are required on a bicycle. First, a lamp must be mounted on the front that emits a white light visible from 500 feet away. Second, a lamp must be mounted on the rear that emits either a flashing or steady red light visible from a distance of 500 feet. Reflectors are required to be mounted on the rear and on each side facing outward at a right angle to the bicycle frame that are visible from up to 600 feet away when directly in front of a vehicle’s lawful head lamps. More lamps and reflectors are allowed; the above is the bare minimum required.
It is interesting to note that Section 329.1 does not apply to two classes of riders. First, riders participating in sanctioned competition races need not adhere to the provisions of this section. Second, peace officers in furtherance of their official duties also need not follow the provisions of this section. But, all other riders on highways and bike paths in Louisiana must meet the minimum requirements of this section.
La. R.S. 32:195 - Riding on bicycles
Section 195 gives us three rules to follow when riding a bicycle. First, the law requires the person propelling the bicycle to ride on a “permanent or regular seat attached thereto.” Second, a bicyclists cannot carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped. Third, a bicyclist is required to keep at least one hand on the handlebars.
La. R.S. 32:196 - Clinging to vehicles
Section 196 adds an additional rule applicable to bicycles and other “nonmotorized rideable device[s]” (e.g. skateboards); it prohibits clinging or otherwise attaching oneself to a motor vehicle.
La. R.S. 32:197 - Riding on roadways and bicycle paths
Section 197 is an important section because it prescribes the rules for riding on roadways and bicycle paths. It first requires the bicyclist to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. It then imposes a duty upon the bicyclist to exercise due care when passing a vehicle. The law then gives 4 exceptions to the requirement of riding on the right side: (1) when overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; (2) when preparing for a left turn; (3) to avoid obstacles or other conditions that make it unsafe to ride along the right-hand edge; or (4) when approaching a lane where a “right turn is authorized” (e.g. a right-turn lane).
Paragraph C of Section 197 prohibits more than two cyclists from riding “abreast,” or next to one another, unless they are riding on a bicycle path. Paragraph D allows bicycle riders to ride on the shoulder of the road. Finally, Paragraph E provides rule for cyclists making a left turn on a road with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction. The rule allows the cyclist to ride as near the left-hand curb or shoulder of the road as practicable when preparing for a left turn.
La. R.S. 32:199 - Bicycle helmets; restraining seats
Section 199 gives cyclists the rules regarding bicycle helmets and restraining seats. With respect to helmets, this sections requires that a parent or other guardian shall not knowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to operate or ride as a passenger on a bicycle without wearing an approved helmet of good fit fastened securely upon the head with the straps of the helmet. An “approved helmet” is one that meets or exceeds the minimum bicycle helmet safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Further, with respect to restraining seats, this section prevents a parent or guardian from knowingly allowing a child who either weighs less than 40 pounds or is less than 40 inches (3 feet, 4 inches) in height to ride as a passenger without being properly seated in and adequately secured to a restraining seat. A “restraining seat” is defined as a seat separate from the saddle seat of the operator of the bicycle that is fastened securely to the frame of the bicycle and is adequately equipped to restrain the passenger in such seat and protect such passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle.
Again, knowledge of the above duties and responsibilities is critical to safe and secure bike riding on Louisiana roadways. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the above provisions before going out for a ride.