Although Kentucky averages between 170 and 198 days of sunshine per year, the state lacks the infrastructure to adequately support bicycling. Kentucky ranks in the bottom half of bicycle-friendly places to live. Jefferson County is considered a high-stress area for bikers, and Louisville ranks in the 9th percentile of bike-friendly large cities. Given its low ranking, Kentucky residents should understand the state’s bicycle laws and consult a personal injury lawyer in Louisville if they are injured in a bicycle accident.
Kentucky Bicycle Laws
Kentucky defines bicycles as vehicles that require muscular power to operate. eBikes fall into this category if they rely on human muscular power to work. Because bicycles are classified as vehicles, cyclists must adhere to all traffic laws as set by Kentucky’s Department of Transportation.
This means that bicyclists must stop at all stop signs and red lights unless the traffic light fails to detect the bike. Cyclists must travel with the direction of traffic unless a designated bicycle lane exists. When traveling in traffic, cyclists must stay beyond the right boundary, except when making left turns. They must also use proper hand signaling to indicate changes in direction.
Kentucky allows bicyclists to use sidewalks. However, cities can regulate or prohibit their use with different rules covering different jurisdictions. For example, the city of Louisville prohibits anyone over the age of 11 from riding a bicycle on a sidewalk within the Louisville Metro area. No bicycles are allowed on downtown sidewalks. Within the state, bicyclists who use sidewalks are considered pedestrians and must follow all applicable laws.
Sidewalk Riding Regulations
Bicyclists riding on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk are considered pedestrians and must comply with corresponding laws, with the following exceptions:
- Must slow to the speed of pedestrians.
- Must slow when approaching a driveway or crosswalk where motorized vehicles may appear.
- Must not leave the sidewalk or crosswalk so as to move into the path of another vehicle.
- Must obey pedestrian traffic signals.
- Must yield to vehicles when entering an intersection or crosswalk.
Because local ordinances can take precedence over state law, cyclists should check before starting a bike ride. If an accident happens, Louisville personal injury lawyers can help.
Kentucky has no helmet laws for bicycles. Although the legislature is considering a bicycle helmet law, no state-wide requirement exists. If passed, the new regulation would require anyone under the age of 12 to wear a helmet.
Until the state enacts a helmet law, individual cities can mandate if and when they are required. For example, Louisville requires anyone under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when riding a bike in a Metro Park.
Rules of the Road
Kentucky requires any slow-moving vehicle to keep to the right-hand boundary of a highway. In Kentucky, the term “highway” can refer to almost any roadways, not just those with limited access. The following list outlines when the right-hand boundary law does not apply to cyclists:
- Making a left-hand turn.
- Passing a slow-moving or stopped vehicle.
- Traveling in a narrow shared lane.
- Approaching an intersection where right turns on red are allowed.
- Maneuvering to avoid an obstacle.
- Riding on a one-way street.
In general, bicyclists should travel along the right-hand boundary unless it impedes the flow of traffic. Unfortunately, not every driver or rider follows the rules, which is why Kentucky had 344 accidents in 2022. If you’re in an accident and need a personal injury lawyer, Louisville has many to choose from.
Safety Equipment Requirements
Bicycles must have the following safety equipment:
Lights and Reflectors
A light must be present on the front of the bicycle or its rider 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise. The light must be visible whenever atmospheric conditions reduce visibility. The light must be visible from 500 feet and must reveal objects at least 50 feet in front of the rider.
When riding on a highway or on its shoulder, the bike must have one rear red reflector or light that is visible from 100 feet. Under adverse weather conditions and during the 30-minute periods before sunrise and after sunset, the flashing red light must be visible on the rear of the bicycle from at least 500 feet.
Horn or Bell
Bicycles may have a bell, horn, or sound-making device to notify pedestrians of their presence. Sirens and whistles are not allowed. Bicyclists may shout to signal to others that they are close. Individuals may say, “passing on left,” to indicate their intent to move past a pedestrian.
Bicycles must have brakes that can stop the bike within 15 feet at ten miles per hour on dry roads. The brakes must also be capable of slowing the bike to allow for controlled movements.
Bicycles traveling on public roads must have an attached seat. The number of people one bike can carry is determined by its design. If a seat or carrying device is part of the original manufactured product, other persons can be placed on the bike.
Biking in Kentucky
Kentucky has wonderful scenery and beautiful weather for cyclists. However, the state has one of the highest fatality rates. If you or someone you know is involved in an accident, contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation.