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North Carolina Coalition for Bicycle Driving

Bicyclists are Drivers of Vehicles

Road Vogue

by Wayne Pein

There are lots of titles for a person on a bicycle. Bicyclist, cyclist, bicycle rider, person on bike, pedal pusher, etc. A person using a bicycle is both the engine and operator, so can justifiably be called a bicycle driver. By thinking of yourself as a driver of a bicycle vehicle, and projecting that image to motor vehicle drivers, you are more likely to use your bicycle with other traffic in a safe and confident manner. To do this, you need to know a few things about traffic law, and a few tips about operating a bicycle.

Equal Rights. Equal Responsibilities.

What the Law says.

20-4.01 (49) of the NC traffic code says: "...for the purposes of this Chapter bicycles shall be deemed vehicles and every rider of a bicycle upon a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this Chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle except those which by their nature can have no application."

What the Law means.
In North Carolina, bicycles are legal vehicles and people
driving bicycles have equal rights as motor vehicle drivers. Equal rights means that people who drive bicycles are legally entitled to use of the full lane, just as are other vehicle operators.

The "first come, first served" principle of right-of-way means that every vehicle operator is entitled to the lane space they occupy, plus a buffer in front and behind. Other vehicle operators who want to use this space must first yield to the person already entitled to it. This is the principle that implicates a motorist for hitting another from behind. Thus, a bicycle rider has right-of-way or "control" of the travel lane when in front of a motorist who is behind. It's the bicyclist's lane. Further discussion of this topic is found under Position Prudence.

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