Passing laws: Rhode Island requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, such that in the event the bicycle rider shall fall into the traffic lane, the driver would not strike the cyclist. This requirement does not apply if:
- The bicycle is on a designated bicycle lane;
- The motor vehicle is at a speed that does not exceed 15 mph; and
- When the driver is passing a person operating a bicycle on the person’s right side and the bicycle rider is turning left.
In addition, the driver of a motor vehicle may drive to the left of the center of the road to pass a bicycle if safe to do so.
Helmet law: Rhode Island requires the operator or passenger of a bicycle under the age of 15 years old to wear a helmet. However, the failure to wear a helmet shall have no impact and not be admissible in an attempt to reduce the amount of damages or to constitute a defense to an action for damages brought by the bicyclist or passenger against the the fault of another. This applies to the survivors of the deceased if the bicyclist or passenger were killed.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist “Vulnerable User Laws”: Rhode Island does not have any Vulnerable User Laws.
Distracted Driving Laws: Rhode Island has enacted the following laws to reduce distracted driving:
- No person shall use a wireless phone to compose, read or send text messages while operating a motor vehicle;
- It is unlawful for a person less than 18 years of age to use a cell phone ( in any capacity) while operating a motor vehicle, unless used for emergency purposes;
- Except in the case of an emergency, it is unlawful for the driver a school bus to use a cell phone while trasnsporting children; and
- It is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle or bicycle while wearing earphones or a headset.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist (Where to Ride): Generally speaking, Rhode Island law requires bicyclists to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible, except when official traffic control devices direct bicyclists to do otherwise.
Sidewalk Riding: The general rule in Rhode Island is that you are permitted to ride on sidewalks. However, you have all right rights and duties that would be applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: In Rhode Island, bicycles are defined as vehicles. Rhode Island’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 apply to bicyclists. Bicycles should not be operated while under the influence and a bicyclist may potentially be charged with a DUI resulting in severe punishment and penalties.
Stop Sign Laws: In Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
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