In North Carolina, a bicycle has the legal bearing of a vehicle — with all the rights and responsibilities. And now that these two-wheeled vehicles are about to begin sharing our High Country roads in earnest with the spring cycling season, it’s important that bicyclists review those rules especially important to their safety.
The Child Bicycle Safety Act in North Carolina mandates that all bicycle operators younger than 16 wear a helmet on all public roadways or rights-of-way. And, for the very young who may be a passenger — that is, those less than 40 pounds or 40 inches — the law requires they be seated in a child seat or bicycle trailer.
All bicyclists, regardless of age or size according to the N.C. Division of Bicycles & Pedestrian Transportation, are required to adhere to the rules that govern the operation of a motor vehicle. In North Carolina, that means riding on the right in the same direction as traffic, obeying all traffic signs and signals, using hand signals to let others know your intended movements and equipping bicycles with a front lamp visible from 300 feet away and a rear reflector visible from 200 feet when riding at night.
Beyond the rules, though, there is room for common sense. There are no laws, for instance, requiring bicyclists to ride single file or not wear headphones. But as even the shortest High Country bicycle excursion will demonstrate, riding two or more abreast or hampering your hearing on our narrow, winding roads is not sound advice.
And as for helmets: No, adults are not legally required to wear them while bicycling — although local municipalities can mandate the use. But, simply, helmets save lives and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the stats to prove it: those who wear a helmet while cycling reduce the chance of a fatal head injury by 65 percent.