Bicycling Safety Laws Across the Nation


Over the past decade, bicycling has undergone a significant revival. Hoping to decrease their carbon footprint, unclog city streets, and get a little extra exercise, commuters have turned to their bicycles in droves as a preferred method of getting to work. The bike zeitgeist has been particularly pronounced in the Bay Area. This year, San Francisco and Oakland climbed the ranks of the League of American Bicyclists’ list of major American cities, ranking 4th and 5th respectively. But state laws have not always kept up with the gradual shift away from motor vehicle dominance. Since the roads were developed with cars in mind, bicycle laws often favor car drivers over bicyclists.

Of course, this isn’t true in all states. Just as each state’s legislature differs on many policy positions, attitudes toward bike and motorcycle safety are largely regional issues. As shown in our state-by-state map of driving laws and related interactive map of drunk driving laws, specifics of safety-related legislation are often decided by individual states rather than monitored by federal mandate. The debate remains very similar nationwide: safety advocates see requiring helmets as a simple way to cut down on brain injuries, while some riders view this as an unnecessary infringement of personal responsibility. Regardless of where you stand, the debate will surely continue and be impacted by bicycle and motorcycle deaths on a state-by-state basis.

With this in mind, we compiled a list of bike laws in each of the 50 states and the District of Colombia related to helmets and cycling under the influence. Few states have separate laws for cycling under the influence, but some consider bicycles vehicles, which means cyclists can be arrested on regular DUI charges.  Scroll over this interactive map to see the details of your state’s bicycle laws and how they compare to others.