Do Bikes Have To Stop For Stop Signs Or Red Lights: Road rules for bikes


Many cyclists will cycle on the road, in fact, this is required in many countries. But when you are cycling on the road, which rules do you actually have to follow? I for one have seen many riders jumping red lights and stop signs here in the UK, but is this legal? I took a look into which countries allow bikes to go through red lights and stop signs to help clarify this.

Some states in the US allow bikes to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, however most US states and countries in Europe require bikes to stop at red lights and stop signs. This is because most countries treat bikes as a vehicle on the road, and so require them to follow the same rules as cars.

So, we now know that the rules you have to follow while riding a bike will depend on which country or even which state you are in. So which country is the most lenient and which are the strictest when it comes to allowing bikes to skip red lights? I take a look at this, as well as whether or not bikes have to stick to the speed limit in the rest of the article.

As a general rule, it is good to assume that you have to follow the same rules on the road as other motorists, for example, stopping at red lights, cycling on the correct side of the road, and cycling in a safe way. I am not a legal professional, just a guy who likes cycling. The article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.

Do bike riders have to stop at stop signs?

Some countries recognize that when cycling, starting off from a standstill is one of the more frustrating and possibly more dangerous parts of cycling on the road. Not only can getting up to speed from a standstill be difficult, but it can actually be dangerous, for example, if you pull out of a junction after stopping, you may not be able to pick up speed rapidly enough before a car catches you up.

Because of this, some countries have started to implement rules allowing cyclists to pass through stop signs in certain situations.

LocationRulingLocationRuling
US State
AlabamaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldOklahomaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
AlaskaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldOregonCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
ArizonaYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)PennsylvaniaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
ArkansasCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldRhode IslandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
CaliforniaYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)South CarolinaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
ColoradoCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldSouth DakotaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
ConnecticutYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)TennesseCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
DelawareCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldTexasCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
FloridaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldUtahYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)
GeorgiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldVermontCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
HawaiiYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)VirginiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IdahoCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNorth DakotaYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)
IllinoisCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldOhioCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IndianaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldWashingtonYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)
IowaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldWest VirginiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
KansasCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldWisconsinCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
KentuckyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldWyomingCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
LousianaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNebraskaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MaineCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNevadaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MarylandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew HampshireCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MassachusettsCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew JerseyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MichiganCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew MexicoCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MinnesotaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew YorkYou are not required to stop however you must slow down and give way to any other traffic or pedestrians (Idaho Stop)
MissouriCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNorth CarolinaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MontanaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldMississippiCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
Europe
AustriaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldItalyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
BelarusCycling on roads is rarely permitted at allNetherlandsCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
BelgiumCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNorwayCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
DenmarkCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldSpainCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
FranceCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldSwedenCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
GermanyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldSwitzerlandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
GreeceCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldThe UKCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IrelandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
Rest of the world
AustraliaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldCanadaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
BrazilCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldIndiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would

Do bikes have to stop at red lights?

Some states and countries have put in place laws to allow bikes and cyclists to pass through red lights under certain conditions. This often comes about as a way to increase traffic flow (for example allowing bikes to turn right at a red light), or to overcome issues with traffic lights not recognizing bikes due to their size and therefore not changing color even after multiple light cycles.

LocationRulingLocationRuling
US State
AlabamaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldOklahomaMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no traffic
AlaskaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldOregonCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
ArizonaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldPennsylvaniaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
ArkansasMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no trafficRhode IslandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
CaliforniaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldSouth CarolinaMust come to a stop for 2 minutes, however, can proceed if there is no traffic after this time
ColoradoMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no trafficSouth DakotaMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no traffic
ConnecticutCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldTennesseCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
DelawareCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldTexasCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
FloridaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldUtahMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no traffic
GeorgiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldVermontCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
HawaiiCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldVirginiaMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no traffic
IdahoMust come to a stop, however, can proceed if there is no trafficNorth DakotaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IllinoisCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldOhioCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IndianaMust come to a stop for 2 minutes, however, can proceed if there is no traffic after this timeWashingtonCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IowaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldWest VirginiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
KansasMay ride through a red light if it is malfunctioning and stuck on red due to not recognizing your bikeWisconsinCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
KentuckyIf safe and the signal has failed to detect you, you may proceed after stopping.WyomingCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
LousianaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNebraskaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MaineCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNevadaIf safe and the signal has failed to detect you, you may proceed after stopping.
MarylandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew HampshireCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MassachusettsCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew JerseyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MichiganCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldNew MexicoCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
MinnesotaYou may ride through a red light if you wait for a reasonable amount of time and the light does not cycle from red to greenNew YorkPermitted to treat red lights as stop signs
MissouriIf safe and the signal has failed to detect you, you may proceed after stopping.North CarolinaIf safe and the signal has failed to detect you, you may proceed after stopping.
MontanaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldMississippiCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
Europe
AustriaSpecific traffic signs will indicate that bicycles are allowed to turn right through a red light or pass straight through a T-junction on a red light, only once they have stopped and given way to cars and pedestrians.ItalyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
BelarusCycling on roads is rarely permitted at allNetherlandsCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
BelgiumIn some regions you may turn right at a red light, however, this is only the case if there is a specific sign indicating this.NorwayCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
DenmarkMay turn right at red lights where specific signage indicates this is allowedSpainCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
FranceSpecific traffic signs will indicate that bicycles are allowed to turn right through a red light or pass straight through a T-junction on a red light, only once they have stopped and given way to cars and pedestrians.SwedenCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
GermanyCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldSwitzerlandCyclists can turn right at a red light, provided this is indicated accordingly.
GreeceCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldThe UKCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
IrelandCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
Rest of the world
AustraliaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldCanadaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would
BrazilCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car wouldIndiaCyclists are required to come to a full stop just as a car would

Why do cyclists not stop at red lights?

Unlike a car, getting a bike started from a standstill requires a lot of energy from the rider. Once it’s going, the bike’s own momentum carries it forward, so it requires much less energy. Often this means that cyclists will try to edge out of red lights (even when it is illegal to do so) because they want to conserve energy or keep moving more quickly.

It is also the case that many cyclists do not realize that not stopping at a red light is actually illegal and that in some cases they can be fined for doing this. This is because some cyclists will consider themselves to be pedestrians. However, as you can see, most countries count bicycles to be vehicles, and thus riders have to follow the rules of a vehicle on the road (unless stated otherwise).

Do cyclists have to follow speed limits?

In general, bicycles are required to follow the speed limits on the road if they are classed by the country as a vehicle. A majority of countries class bikes as vehicles with a notable exception being the UK.

It is worth noting that in countries where bikes do not have to follow the speed limit, it is often left up to the discretion of the police to prosecute cyclists for ‘careless and inconsiderate riding’.

Country/StateRuling
UKNot technically required to follow the same speed limit as motor vehicles. Local bylaws sometimes set specific speed limits on cyclists.
USAIn the majority of states, bikes are considered to be vehicles and so are required to stick to the same speed limits as they are.
CanadaBikes are considered to be vehicles and so are required to stick to the same speed limits as they are.
AustraliaBikes are considered to be vehicles and so are required to stick to the same speed limits as they are.
AustriaBikes are considered to be vehicles and so are required to stick to the same speed limits as they are.
SpainBikes are considered to be vehicles and so are required to stick to the same speed limits as they are.

Is there a minimum speed limit for bikes on the road?

In the UK minimum speed limits on roads are quite rare, in fact, even if they did In general, we’ve already established that in the UK, cyclists have no legal obligation to adhere to the same speed limits as motorists. 

There are 2 main risks of going to slowly on a main road. Firstly there is the risk to your own safety, as you might have worked out, cycling too slowly on a fast road can suprise drivers who expect you to be riding faster than you are and may increase your risk of an accident.

The second risk is that a police officer may deem that your are cycling recklessley, in these cases police are enttitled to give out a fixed penaly fine as they would if you were cycling in a dangerous way on the pavement.

Can cyclists be caught by a speed camera?

The simple answer is yes. Speed cameras can be activated by bikes, however as you can see from the video below, they are quite inconsistent at flashing for a bike, and depending on the camera may only be set off if you are wearing a high visibility jacket.

Again, whether or not you could be tracked and prosecuted will be dependent on which country or state you belong to. Certainly, you cannot presume you will go unpunished.

Police have been known to track down motorcycles caught on front-facing speed cameras (where motorcycles do not have license plates) by matching missing bolts on the bikes themselves. While there are no specific stories of bikes getting a ticket from a speed camera, it may well be possible.

Can bikes ride on the pavement?

The UK

The highway code clearly states that “You must not cycle on a pavement” In the UK doing so can earn you a fixed penalty notice (similar to a fine). However, there is a little leeway, the UK government specifically has gone on record about the fixed penalty notices stating that police should use discretion where appropriate.

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users.

The US

Some states do allow bikes the use the sidewalk, however, most require the bikes to give way to walking pedestrians and have some form of a bell to alert them to their presence.

In reality, if you are looking to cycle in the US on the sidewalk or pavement then you will need to look up your specific state rulings.

Is there a speed limit for bikes on the pavement?

Where you are allowed on the pavement, most countries suggest that you should be riding in a considerate way for pedestrians, there is no strict speed limit however officers are allowed to give you a ticket if they feel you are unsafe.

Overall

As you can see, the rules about stopping for stop signs or red lights will be very dependent on which country or state you are in.

If you want to take a look at some of the resources I used to produce this article, you can find them below, or if you think that any of the information in this resource is outdated, please do drop me an email.

References

https://www.bicyclelaw.com/https://www.cyclinglawyer.comhttps://www.donkey.bikehttps://www.cbsnews.com
https://transport.tamu.edu/http://bicyclegermany.comhttps://www.slatergordon.co.ukhttps://www.mass.gov
Alternative/bicycles/statelaw.aspxhttps://cyclemalaga.comhttps://road.cc/content/newshttps://lvaccident.co
https://www.biketexas.orghttps://www.postindependent.comhttps://www.cflblaw.comhttp://ribike.org
https://www.saga.co.ukhttps://www.wien.gv.athttps://bicycleuniverse.comhttps://www.amygillett.org.au
https://www.bbc.co.ukhttp://www.cyclelaw.co.ukhttps://www.deseret.comhttps://www.bikelaw.com
https://road.cc/content/news/https://ohs.delaware.gohttps://www.hewittsalvatore.comhttps://www.grandforksherald.com
https://dublininquirer.comhttps://www.cflblaw.cohttps://www.maine.govhttps://www.cunninghamandmears.com
https://www.bikenwa.orghttps://www.ksdot.orghttps://kfor.comhttps://www.nh.gov
www.bicycleuniverse.comhttps://www.ohiobar.orghttps://www.thefinelawfirm.comhttps://www.nysenate.gov/
https://dot.nebraska.govhttps://www.casey-injurylaw.comhttps://www.gearx.comhttps://www.dot.state.wy.us
http://www.ibikeknx.comhttps://www.virginiadot.orhttps://mobikefed.orghttps://nomadandinlove.com
https://www.king5.comhttp://www.jhcycling.orghttps://www.casey-injurylaw.comhttps://www.nysenate.gov
https://dcist.comhttps://eu.thespectrum.com//www.denverpost.comhttps://www.cyclinglawyer.com
https://iowabicyclecoalition.orghttps://www.truittlawoffices.comhttps://www.ilsos.govhttps://en.wikipedia.org
https://www.truittlawoffices.comhttps://www.lipconlawfirm.comhttps://www.bwglaw.comhttp://wwwsp.dotd.la.govtute%20that%20defines%20vehicles.
https://www.kare11.comhttps://medmal-law.comhttps://www.nh.govhttps://www.hewittsalvatore.com
https://www.bhpioneer.comhttps://www.tn.govhttps://www.theadvocates.comhttps://www.thelocal.at
https://www.expatica.comhttps://www.fyidenmark.comhttps://insiderguides.com.auhttps://www.citizensinformation.ie
https://www.axa.chhttps://www.transportstyrelsen.sehttp://www.southingtonearlychildhood.orghttps://road.cc
https://www.denverpost.comhttps://bicycleuniverse.comhttps://blog.ipleaders.inhttps://cyclemalaga.com

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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