5 “Illegal” Things Cyclists Do that Are Actually Perfectly Legal

Shouldn’t most of these be common knowledge by now?

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Photo by Stephen Rees

Photo by Stephen Rees

Torklaw, an American law firm specializing in personal injury and wrongful death, recently wrote an article entitled “5 Things Cyclists Do You Didn’t Know are Perfectly Legal.” The article is aimed at drivers who have limited experience sharing the road with people on bikes, basically an “intro to not killing people” for these changing times.

The article overall is great. It’s clear, concise, and lays out the laws that are universally applicable for cyclists in every US state, along with reasons it’s really in everybody’s best interests to follow said laws.

What surprised me right off the bat though, is the first thing cyclists do that “you didn’t know was perfectly legal,” – riding in the roadway. The TorkLaw staff writes about riding in the roadway, “Not only is it legal to ride in the roadway, that’s the only place it is legal to ride,” citing the law which states as much.

This still requires clarification? There are honestly still people who don’t realize it’s legal to ride bikes in the road? Followed by “Leaving the bike lane to use the left turn lane,” the article starts to read like less of a legal instructional guide, and more like a “State of the Union” on just how far we have left to go in achieving universal road safety and tolerance.

The remaining three are improvements. “Riding straight in the right turn lane” and “Riding two abreast in the roadway” are understandably confusing for some drivers as both moves are decidedly illegal for cars. Which simply underscores how important it is to remind people that bikes are not in fact cars, and follow a different (albeit still too-similar) set of laws.

The final, and my personal favorite, is a good-humored reminder for drivers and cyclists: “Filming you while you scream at them.” “Not only are cyclists allowed to wear cameras when they ride,” writes Torklaw, “they’re starting to be encouraged to do so.” Let that be a warning for drivers. If you fail to properly understand the legality of the any of the initial four actions and find yourself screaming at a cyclist for doing something perfectly legal, they can (and likely will) begin filming you. Get ready for the YouTube likes to roll in.

Hilary Angus is the Online Editor at Momentum Mag. @HilaryAngus


  • Nice article. Thanks for sharing!

  • James Clark

    This article should be bulleted, I.E. constructed as a list… Just saying…

  • I opened this link know it would reference the “5 Things Cyclists Do You Didn’t Know are Perfectly Legal” article and was hoping Momentum would have corrected the inaccuracies.

  • Mike

    I noticed that running stop signs and running stop lights weren’t on the list, though it seems so many bikers either think it is legal or they just don’t care.

    • Darell Dickey

      >> I noticed that running stop signs and running stop lights weren’t on the list. <<

      Yeah, I guess that's not the point of the article. The same way that speeding, and dooring and right-hooking by motorists isn't on the list either.

      Here's the thing though – treating stops as yields, and red lights as stops IS in fact the law in Idaho. And shockingly, it works just fine.

  • Tim F.

    I don’t think #3 is true in many jurisdictions, and I think the code they link to to support it is at best unclear. I don’t see anywhere in the linked text that says you can ride straight in a right turn lane. Rather, it says to me that when there is a right turn lane, you are not required to stay near the curb… in other words, you’re expected to get OUT of the right turn lane into to the “straight” lane. I believe that is actually what the law implies and what most people assume.

  • Spivonious

    Riding straight in the right turn lane

    Nope, that’s illegal for cyclists in PA.

  • There are some inaccuracies in this article. It is NOT illegal to ride on the sidewalk in the City of Los Angeles. Moreover, bikes are subject to the same rules as cars, so it is inadvisable to go straight from the right turn lane, particularly if there is a car in it turning right.

    • The fundamental principle taught by League Cycling Instructors with the League of American Bicyclists, as I am, is “”ride your bike just like you would drive your car: follow the vehicle code just as if you were driving.”

      A secondary principle is to use the right-most travel lane that will take you to your destination when transiting an intersection. Cyclists should NEVER ride straight through an intersection in a right-turn-only lane, as this only invites being “right-hooked” (hit by a car making a RH turn in front of you). To continue straight across an intersection, cyclists should ALWAYS leave the right-hand lane if it becomes a RH-only turn lane.

      • Darell Dickey

        >> follow the vehicle code just as if you were driving. <<

        Except that in many states you cannot legally do this. "Same rights, same responsibilities" is more a dream than reality. Which drivers are required to drive in a bike lane if it exists and is safe? Which drivers are required to stay to the right of a travel lane if it is practicable? All part of the CA VC.

        – Darell, LCI 4791

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