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NC Department of Health and Human Services
N.C. DPH: Chronic Disease and Injury Section
N.C. Public Health Home

Injury and Violence Prevention Branch

Bicycle Injury

Safe Bike Ride - cyclist with helmet, etc.

There are a lot of great things about riding a bike: it is fun, good exercise, and a way to get from place to place that doesn’t pollute the environment. Still, the threat of being injured or killed while bicycling is a serious concern for many people. Bike riders can avoid being injured by learning how to safely share the road. 

Bicycles are legally considered to be vehicles, and are therefore subject to most of the same traffic rules and regulations as cars and trucks. This includes obeying traffic lights and right of way rules. It is the responsibility of every cyclist to adhere to these laws as well as other safety guidelines. The minute a bicycle enters a pathway, a sidewalk, a park, a street or road, it is not a toy; it is a vehicle.

Safety Tips

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation offers the following safety tips to bicyclists when riding on the road:

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet;
  • Ride on the right-hand side of the road, in the same direction as other vehicles;
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals;
  • Properly signal all movements and make sure movements can be made safely;
  • Yield to drivers and pedestrians, as appropriate; and
  • Avoid riding at night, but if you do, be sure to use a headlight visible from a distance of 300 feet and a red reflector visible at a distance of 200 feet, as well as wear reflective clothing.

NCDOT also offers the following safety tips to motorists when encountering bicyclists:

  • Keep a lookout for oncoming bicyclists when turning left and wait for them to clear the intersection before completing your turn;
  • After passing a bicyclist on your right, take care not to cut them off by immediately turning right in front of them;
  • Slow down when passing a bicyclist to make sure the rider is aware of your presence and leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the bicyclist;
  • Stay alert for bicyclists who suddenly swerve or turn in front of you; and
  • Yield to bicyclists, when appropriate, as you would for other motor vehicles.

Bicycle Helmets

It is the state law in North Carolina for people under 16 years old to wear a helmet while riding a bike. There is good reason for this law because helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury in a bicycle crash by as much as 85 percent. Adults are not immune to head injury, so even though it isn’t the law, wearing a helmet is the best way to stay safe. The towns of Black Mountain and Boone, North Carolina have local ordinances that require everyone to wear a helmet while riding a bike. 

Things to Remember

  • Your helmet should fit correctly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association explains how to fit your bicycle helmet.
  • Your helmet should be worn centered on your head.
  • Everybody should wear a helmet every time they ride a bike.