One of the main causes of bicycle accidents in Alabama is people disobeying the state’s bicycle laws. Bicycle laws are in place to protect vulnerable road users and prevent harmful collisions. Breaking the law as a driver or bicyclist could cause accidents and life-altering injuries, including traumatic brain damage. The best way to enjoy a ride in Alabama is to learn the laws that relate to you and obey them. Taking steps to improve your safety as a bicyclist could save your life.

Helmets Required Ages 16 and Under

Alabama law requires anyone 16 and under to wear an approved helmet while riding a bicycle. This helmet law applies to riders and passengers alike. An approved helmet meets the federal safety standards and has undergone tests to prove its crashworthiness. Look for a sticker from the Department of Transportation to make sure you purchase the correct helmet. The helmet should fit correctly, not too tight or too loose.

Equipment Requirements

It is illegal to operate a bicycle that does not meet the equipment requirements in Alabama. This includes a seat for all passengers, adequate brakes, properly inflated tires, a rear red reflector and a white front light (to ride at night). Not having the right equipment could contribute to a bicycle accident. It could also lead to a ticket for the bicyclist.

At Least 3 Feet of Space

Bicyclists should use bicycle lanes or the road in cities like Huntsville, Alabama, not sidewalks. Alabama’s roadway laws require drivers to keep at least three feet of space between their vehicles and bicycles at all times. This includes while riding behind or passing a bicycle. This rule will only apply, however, if the bicyclist is two feet or less from the right side of the road. If a biker is riding in the center of the lane, a motorist cannot pass in the same lane. Motorists must respect bicyclists as they would other roadway motorists, yielding them the right-of-way when applicable at four-way intersections and stoplights.

Biking Under the Influence

Since Alabama law views bicycles as vehicles, the same driving under the influence (DUI) law applies to both. It is against the law to operate a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a blood alcohol content level at or above 0.08%. Doing so could result in criminal charges, fines and/or jail time, as well as requirements such as community service or a drug or alcohol course.

Bicycle Safety Tips

Knowing the law is just the first step toward improving your safety as a bicyclist in Alabama. Although what drivers do is out of your hands, you can control your actions and behaviors. Biking safely and prudently can decrease your risk of an accident. Take your safety into your own hands by following a few general tips.

  • Wear a helmet. Even if you are older than 16, wear a helmet when bicycling for optimal safety. A helmet reduces your odds of suffering a serious personal injury in a collision.
  • Be visible. Wear brightly colored clothing or a reflective vest when biking to maximize your visibility to drivers, especially at night. Signal your intent to turn and obey roadway rules to stay predictable to those around you.
  • Keep your distance. You may have the same rights to the road as a motorist, but keeping your distance can keep you safe. Allow drivers to pass while giving you plenty of room by staying as far to the right side of the road as possible.

If you break one of Alabama’s bicycle laws and cause an accident, you may be unable to recover compensation for your injuries. Alabama follows strict contributory negligence laws, meaning you could lose your right to recovery with even 1% of the fault for an accident. Doing your best to bike safely and prevent collisions could keep you out of the hospital – and out of legal trouble.