Bicyclist Rights and Personal Injury Laws in North Carolina | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The streets and roads around Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills are often utilized by bicyclists, including tourists and residents alike. This is because the Outer Banks (OBX) is a popular vacation destination and many people take trips to visit these areas in the hopes of enjoying a relaxing day at the beach and maybe a bike ride.

Given the high volume of bicyclists in the OBX region, there is a greater risk of serious collisions occurring between bike riders and motorists. This is a major safety issue because bicyclists are vulnerable to suffering catastrophic bodily injuries, as the only protection available to them is usually a helmet.

Due to the risk of suffering serious injury, it is important for bicyclists and motorists to understand the applicable laws and traffic regulations in North Carolina. Below is a brief summation of these laws.

A Bicycle is a Vehicle in North Carolina

Under North Carolina law, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. This means a bicyclist has a duty to comply with the following traffic regulations:

  • Bicyclists may ride on any state-maintained road, except for interstate highways
  • Bicyclists may travel in the middle of a traffic lane if capable of traveling at the same speed as cars using the road or if the extreme right side of the road is in a condition of disrepair that renders riding a bike to the far right unsafe. As a practical matter, however, it is safest for cyclists to travel on the far right side of the street.
  • Bicyclists may make a left turn in the same fashion that a car would and use the corresponding lane
  • Bicyclists may disobey traffic devices
  • Bicyclists must use appropriate hand signals
  • Bicyclists are not allowed on the sidewalk.  They have the right to be in the road and if there are bike lanes, they must use those.

Related Content:

Duties and Obligations of Motorists When Approaching a Bicyclist

Below is a brief overview of what motorists must do when the encounter a bicyclist on a North Carolina road or highway, according to CBS News.

  • Motorists are allowed to pass cyclists – State law now allows cars to pass cyclists, even if there’s a double yellow line.  Drivers won’t be ticketed for crossing over the line to pass a cyclist; just be cognizant of oncoming traffic.  If a car is trying to pass a cyclist, they must give them at least 4 feet of space on the side.
  • Drivers can be fined if they cause a cyclist to crash or force them to change lanes.
  • A driver who causes a cyclist to change travel lanes or leave that portion of a travel lanes will be fined $200. If the motorist causes a cyclist to crash causing property damage or personal injury there will be a fine of $500 and if there is more than $5,000 in property damage or serious injury, the driver will be fined $750.

Unfortunately, there are some ambiguous areas under North Carolina law for interactions between bicyclists and motorists. For example, there is no prohibition against wearing headphones while bicycling. Of course, this is discouraged and considered unsafe. The law also does not bar bicyclists from riding side-by-side, nor does it mandate single-file cycling. Instead, you should use your common sense when bicycling in a group and allow cars the space to pass safely. North Carolina state law defers to local jurisdictions on the issue of whether cyclists can ride on sidewalks.

Holding a Motorist Accountable for Causing an Accident with a Bicyclist

If you or a family member was injured while riding a bicycle, take the time to schedule a free consultation with a bicycle accident attorney in Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, or anywhere else in North Carolina. You may be eligible to recover the following types of harms and losses:

  • Medical bills
  • Prescription bills
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Mileage to and from doctor visits
  • Permanent impairments / disabilities
  • Permanent disfigurement (scarring)
  • Future medical bills

Contact Shapiro & Appleton Today

Our team of experienced bike accident lawyers in Kitty Hawk are here to help you and your family. Below are five reasons why you should contact our firm today:

  1. The lawyers at Shapiro & Appleton possess decades of combined legal experience
  2. The firm is recognized as a “Best Law Firm” by U.S. News & World Report (since ’10) for personal injury litigation.
  3. Attorneys at the firm are recognized as “AV Preeminent” Lawyers by Martindale-Hubbell
  4. Track record of securing large jury verdicts and settlements for our clients
  5. A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau