Passing laws: Louisiana requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle.
Helmet law: Louisiana requires that any passenger or operator of a bicycle under the age of 12 years old be required to wear a helmet.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: There are certain laws entitled “vulnerable user laws.” These laws protect the most “vulnerable” vehicles, such as a bicycle. Louisiana does not have any specific vulnerable user laws but does require that:
It is unlawful to harass, taunt, or throw objects at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle; and any person convicted of doing so shall be given a fine of no less than $200 or put in prison for not more than 30 days.
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 exist. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Louisiana there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws:
- A person under the age of 18 years shall not operate any motor vehicle while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, read, send, or read a text based communication or engage in a call (even if it is hands-free);
- No person who holds a Class “E” learners permit or intermediate license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road while using any wireless telecommunications device for ANY purpose, this includes text, calls (unless it is hands-free), web surfing, or other use; and
- No person, regardless of age, shall operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device to read, write or send a text based communication.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking Louisiana 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 preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow;
- When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized; or
- When upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes, in which case a bicyclist may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.
Sidewalk Riding: Louisiana does not have a law that either prohibits or allows riding on the sidewalk. Louisiana does not require that bicyclists use a bike lane or path when available. The cyclist is free to ride on the bike path or traffic lanes when both are available.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: Obviously, it is never a good idea to drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol. However, in Louisiana, bicycles are not defined as vehicles. Louisiana’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to vehicles and therefore does not directly apply to bicyclists. However, bicycles should not be operated while under the influence and a bicyclist may potentially be charged with a DUI because bicyclists are subject to the duties applicable to vehicles as defined by Louisiana statute.
Stop Sign Laws: In Louisiana 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 Louisiana does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Important Resources and Links
The statutes and laws regulating the operation of bicycles in Lousiana are generally found in Title 32 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes (La.Rev.Ann.) available at http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/LawSearch.aspx.
Text of Title 32, click here.