Passing laws: Delaware requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, using the following rules:
- If there is at least two lanes in each direction, then the motor vehicle must use the lane furthest from from the bicycle when passing, if possible; or
- The motor vehicle must proceed with caution and reduce to a safe speed and leave a safe and prudent distance from the bicycle, not less than 3 feet.
Helmet law: In Delaware the operator or passenger of a bicycle under 18 years of age is required to wear a helmet. However, the failure to wear a helmet shall not be considered contributory negligence and will not be admissible in a civil action.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: There are certain laws entitled “vulnerable user laws.” These laws, in essence, require the vehicle least at risk to yield to the vehicle most at risk. A vulnerable user is entitled to a public right of way from a non-vulnerable user. The vulnerable user is protected by there being additional penalties for any person found to be careless and contributing to the serious injury of a vulnerable user. The following are considered “Vulnerable Users”:
- A person riding an animal;
- A farm tractor;
- A skateboard;
- A Roller Skater;
- A Scooter;
- A moped;
- A Bicycle: or
- A Motorcycle.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exists. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Delaware there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. It is unlawful for any person driving a motor vehicle to use an electronic wireless device to write, send, or read a text based communication. In addition, the driver shall not use a wireless telephone unless the telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands free listening and talking (blue-tooth) and is used in that manner. In addition, there are specific restrictions, such as:
- A school bus driver may never operate a school bus while using his/her cell phone.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking, Delaware law requires the bicyclist to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. However there are some important exceptions that I will outline below:
- When passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
- When proceeding straight on a right hand turn only lane;
- When preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or
- When reasonably necessary to avoid an unsafe condition along the road or in the event the lane is too narrow for a motor vehicle and bicycle to be side by side.
Sidewalk Riding: Delaware allows bicycles to ride on the sidewalk, subject to the following circumstances:
- A bicyclist must yield to a pedestrian and give an audible signal prior to passing the pedestrian.
- When it is prohibited by any city, state or local ordinance.
- If you use the sidewalk you are subject to and have the same rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
Mandatory Use of Separate Lanes: Delaware does not require bicyclists to use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular lane.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: In Delaware , it is unlawful for a cyclist to operate a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or combination thereof. Any violations are likely to result in severe punishments. The punishments are as follows:
- first offense shall result in a fine not less than $150 and not to exceed $1150.
- subsequent offenses shall result in a fine not less than $400 and not to exceed $1500 OR be imprisoned not less than 10 day or more than 30 days, OR both. The subsequent offense must have been committed within 2 years to be considered a subsequent offense.
- No violation shall be entered on the driver’s motor vehicle record.
Stop Sign Laws: In Delaware bicycles have to follow the same rules as motor vehicles regarding the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Delaware does require that traffic control signals must be installed and maintained so they detect bicycle traffic.
Important Resources and Links