Bicycle Laws

When both drivers and cyclists know the law, everyone on the street is safer.

After reading the basics in this artcle, you may want to download the guide Utah State Codes Relevant to Avid Cyclists. This easy-to-print one page guide was prepared by Provo Bicycle Committee member Jordan Englund. It cites relevant laws and is carried by many cyclists in the valley. Carrying one in your wallet can help you educate local residents or even officers that may not be particularly familiar with the law.

You may also be interested in downloading UDOT’s Utah Bicycle Commuter Guide which includes a summary of state bike laws on the back.

Top 10 Utah and Provo Bicycle Laws

There are dozens of laws that relate to bicycling in the valley. However, a few stand out as the most important statutes beginning cyclists need to know. By familiarizing yourself with the ten bicycling laws below, you’ll be prepared for just about any situation you encounter on the road.

1. Get a Provo bike license in case of theft (just $1 at 351 W. Center St.)

“No person shall ride or propel any bicycle on any public place unless and until such cycle shall have been licensed…This license shall remain in effect until the bicycle is sold or otherwise transferred to a new owner.” (Am 1986-30, Am 1994-97, Am 2006-15)

2. Ride on the road facing the same direction as traffic and staying as far to the right as practicable

“(1)  A person operating a bicycle … on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic …shall ride as near as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway except when: (a)  overtaking and passing …(b) preparing to make a left turn …(c) traveling straight through an intersection …or (d)  reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe … including: (i)  fixed or moving objects; (ii)  parked or moving vehicles; (iii) bicycles; (iv)  pedestrians; (v)  animals; (vi)  surface hazards; or (vii)  a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.” (41-6a-1105)

3. Obey all rules of the road (lights, stop signs, yield signs, etc.)

“(1) …a person operating a bicycle… has all the rights and is subject to the provisions of this chapter applicable to the operator of any other vehicle.” (41-6a-1102)

4. Use hand signals (left turn = left arm extended, right turn = right arm extended, stop = left arm extended downward)

“(1) (a)  A person may not turn a vehicle …until: …an appropriate signal has been given …continuously for at least the last two seconds preceding the beginning of the movement.” (41-6a-804)

5. Take the entire lane of traffic if it would be unsafe to ride side-by-side with a car or if road conditions require it. Cars can only pass bicyclists if there is a 3-foot buffer between them (the “3-foot rule”)

“An operator of a motor vehicle may not knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly operate a motor vehicle within three feet of a moving bicycle, unless the operator of the motor vehicle operates the motor vehicle within a reasonable and safe distance of the bicycle.” (41-6a-706.5)

6. Only ride 2-abreast if it will not impede traffic

“A person riding a bicycle … on a roadway may not ride more than two abreast with another person except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. (b) …a person riding two abreast with another person may not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and shall ride within a single lane.” (41-6a-1105)

7. Use lights and reflectors after dark (white headlight, red taillight or reflector, and side reflectors, all visible from at least 500 feet)

“(1)  Every bicycle in use at the times described in Section 41-6a-1603 {“ from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise”} shall be equipped with a: (a)  lamp … on the front emitting a white light …and(b) (i)  red reflector … to the rear …OR (ii)  red taillight …emitting flashing or nonflashing light …(2)  Every bicycle when in use at the times described in Section 41-6a-1603 shall be equipped with: (a)  reflective material …to be visible from both sides … OR … a lighted lamp visible from both sides …{This means a white light in the front, a red light or red reflector in the back, and reflectors or lights visible from the sides. The rear light may be flashing.}” (41-6a-1114)

8. Avoid cycling on the sidewalk in designated areas (University Ave. between 400 North and 100 South, Center Street between 100 East and 500 West, or anywhere that posts notice)

“No person shall ride a bicycle, skateboard or roller skates upon a sidewalk contiguous to University Avenue between 400 North Street and 100 South Street, and on a sidewalk contiguous to Center Street between 100 East Street and 500 West Street.

The City Traffic Engineer is authorized to erect signs on any sidewalk or roadway prohibiting the riding of bicycles thereon by any person and when such signs are in place no person shall disobey the same.” (Am 1987-58)

9. If you ride on the sidewalk, yield to pedestrians and let them know you’re passing with a bell or friendly yelp.

“Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.” (Am 1987-58)

10. Always, always  have fun. (Ok, so this one might not technically be on the books…)

Want to know more? You can find laws relating to bicycling in the Utah State Code and the Public Peace and Safety section of the Provo City Code.

9 thoughts on “Bicycle Laws

  1. How strictly enforced is the bicycle license requirement enforced — specifically for riders who do not live in Provo? I live in Midway, and was planning to ride down Provo Canyon to Provo, grab a quick lunch, and then ride back up the canyon. Do I have to worry about being cited for no license?

    • Bob,

      You do not have to have a bicycle license. They are strongly recommended incase your bicycle gets stolen. If you are riding down from Midway (great ride by the way) you will not have any problems. If your city has bicycle registration I would strongly recommend registering it there in case it does become a victim of theft. Hope your ride goes well.

  2. I’ve always disliked the formal hand signals. Most cyclists don’t know them let alone motorists and they are prone to be confused with other signals. I prefer to just point. Can’t get simpler than that.

  3. Phil, I am with you on the hand signal thing. As I go around with the Bicycle Committee and do education courses/bike rodeos I find that most adults have no idea what the hand signals mean. Pointing is not only easier but, in many cases, safer and more practical. Instead of worrying about the proper sign I think it is more advantageous to just be signaling in general, and in a way that drivers recognize.

  4. In fact, if I recall correctly, the “punishment” for failing to register your bike is a 1$ fine and filling out the registration paperwork. 🙂

  5. I, for one, don’t think bikers belong on the sidewalk, but why would they restrict sidewalk transit for bikers on the roadways in Provo that are of most concern for safety? Univ Ave and Downtown Center Street? Those areas are accident prone enough for cars let alone bikers!

    • @Caden. It’s true that those streets are not very safe right now for biking. The main reason travel is restriceted on sidewalks downtown is because downtown has a lot of foot traffic as well as signs/dinning on the sidewalk. With a lot of the real estate being (rightfully) taken up it makes it hard to for a bicycle to safely get through. There are some great changes to downtown coming in the near future that will help make it a lot more safe. Thanks for the great question.

  6. On two separate occasions while cycling on city roads i have been passed very close within 2 feet by vehicles. One was a school bus that ran me off the pavement and the other a mail carrier that passed very close. What can I do to help educate these government drivers on the existing laws in Utah, that state a vehicle should give at least 3 feet of space when passing cyclists on the road?

    • Look at the law. It says three feet but also says that a vehicle must operate within a safe distance. As long as you are not hit, no violation of law.

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