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September-October 2002 Newsletter

Cyclist and the Law in Kentucky

by Earl Jones


Editor's note: The following article is reprinted from the July-August 1997 Newsletter in response to members who have requested information on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists under Kentucky law.

Club members often have questions about the legal status of bicycles and the rights of bicyclists under Kentucky law. For your reference, I have cited below some of the relevant sections of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS).

A couple of interesting points to start:

Unlike many more "progressive" states, the Commonwealth of Kentucky's definition of "vehicle" includes bicycles. As such we have all the rights and responsibilities of operators of other vehicles, including the right to use the highways of the Commonwealth and the obligation to operate safely. (Fortunately we are excluded from the definition of motor vehicles, and therefore not subject to the same licensure requirements.)

As a rule, the same rules that govern motor vehicles also apply to bicycles, with some common sense exceptions developed by the Bicycle and Bikeways Commission. The regulations are set forth below.

Even though you might think you qualify, bicycles are not defined as "slow-moving vehicles" in Kentucky. Slow-moving vehicles are vehicles "capable of a speed of no greater than 25 miles per hour ... except bicycles." (See KRS.189.810). And it's a good thing, too, because slow moving vehicles have to display special fluorescent emblems great for Amish buggies but not high-tech bikes.

Not only is it the smart thing to do, but the law requires that when you approach an animal on the highway, you "exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent frightening the animal and to insure the safety of the person riding or driving it. If requested by a signal of the hand of the driver or rider of the animal, do not proceed further toward the animal." (See KRS 189.310). Let's just make sure they don't read this to cover dogs or we'll have to march on Frankfort!

The penalties for violating most of the traffic laws applicable to cyclists range from fines of $20 to $100.

Here is the text of some of the more relevant KRS sections:

189.010 Definitions for chapter

As used in this chapter:

(3) "Highway" means any public road, street, avenue, alley or boulevard, bridge, viaduct, or trestle and the approaches to them and includes off-street parking facilities offered for public use, whether publicly or privately owned, except for-hire parking facilities listed in KRS 189,700.
(7) "Operator" means the person in actual physical control of a vehicle.
(8) "Pedestrian" means any person afoot.
(19) (a) "Vehicle" includes:
All agencies for the transportation of persons or property over or upon the public highways of the Commonwealth; and
All vehicles passing over or upon the highways.
(b)"Motor vehicle" includes all vehicles, as defined in paragraph (a) of this subsection except:

  1. Road rollers;
  2. Road grader;
  3. Farm tractors';
  4. Vehicles on which power shovels are mounted;
  5. Construction equipment customarily used only on the site of construction and which is not practical for the transportation of persons or property upon the highways;
  6. Vehicles that travel exclusively upon rails;
  7. Vehicles propelled by electric power obtained from overhead wires while being operated within any municipality or where the vehicles do not travel more than five (5) miles beyond the city limits of any municipality; and
  8. Vehicles propelled by muscular power.

KRS 189.380 Signals

(1) A person shall not turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway until the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

(2) A signal indicating the intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously for not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the motor vehicle before the turn.

(6) Hand signals shall be executed in the following manner when operating a vehicle that is not a motor vehicle:
(a) The hand and arm shall be extended horizontally from the left side of the vehicle to indicate a left turn;
(b) The left arm shall be extended horizontally with the hand and arm extended upward from the elbow or the right arm and hand shall be extended horizontally to indicate a right turn;
(c) Either arm shall be extended horizontally with the hand and arm extended downward from the elbow to indicate a stop or decrease in speed.

601 KAR 14:020. Bicycle safety standards

(These regulations were adopted by the Bicycle and Bikeways Commission in 1994)

NECESSITY AND FUNCTION: KRS Chapter 189 sets forth many bicycle safety standards that can be overridden by administrative regulations promulgated by the Transportation Cabinet. The Bicycle and Bikeways Commission, authorized by KRS 174.125, has suggested that with the ever-growing use of bicycles in Kentucky additional or different standards are necessary for the safety of the traveling public. This administrative regulation sets forth the required bicycle safety standards.

Section 1. Front Lights. A bicycle operated on a highway during the period from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, and at such other times as atmospheric conditions render visibility as low as or lower than is ordinarily the case during that period shall be equipped with one (1) front light which clearly reveals substantial objects at least fifty (50) feet ahead and which is visible for 500 feet.

Section 2. Rear Lights or Reflectors. A bicycle, when operated on a highway or highway shoulder, shall display on either the bicycle or the bicyclist so that it is visible from the rear of the bicycle:

(1) One (1) red reflector or red light visible for at least 100 feet; and
(2) During the hours or atmospheric conditions described above, one (1) red light or flashing red light visible for at least 500 feet.

Section 3. Horn or Bell.

(1) A bicycle may be equipped with a bell, horn or other device capable of making an abrupt sound.
(2) Every person operating a bicycle shall shout or sound the bell, horn or sound device whenever necessary as a warning of the approach of the bicycle to pedestrians or other bicycles, but shall not sound the horn or sound device unnecessarily.
(3) A bicycle shall not be equipped with a siren or whistle.

Section 4. Brakes. A bicycle shall not be operated on a highway or highway shoulder without brakes adequate to control the movement of and to stop the bicycle.

Section 5. Seat. A bicyclist, when operating on a highway or highway shoulder, shall ride on or astride a permanently attached bicycle seat.

Section 6. Passengers. A bicycle, when being operated on a highway or highway shoulder, shall not carry more than the number of persons for which the bicycle was designed or is safely equipped.

Section 7. Packages. A bicyclist, when operating on a highway or highway shoulder, shall not carry a package, bundle, or article that prevents the operator from keeping at least one (1) hand on the handle bars.

Section 8. Prohibition Against Attaching to Vehicles. A bicyclist, when operating on a highway or highway shoulder, shall not attach either the bicycle or himself to any other vehicle.

Section 9. Operation of Bicycles. A bicycle shall be operated in the same manner as a motor vehicle except the following traffic conditions shall apply:

A bicycle may be operated on the shoulder of a highway;
If a highway lane is marked for the exclusive use of bicycles, the operator of a bicycle shall use the lane whenever feasible;

Not more than two (2) bicycles shall be operated abreast in a single highway lane.

Author's note: While cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast, as a matter of courtesy and common sense, however, LBC MEMBERS KNOW TO PROCEED IN SINGLE FILE WHEN CARS WANT TO PASS. It also make sense to stay in single file on the climbs and narrow country roads. Arguing about rights doesn't help when face-to-face with 2000 pounds of steel!


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web posted: 9 September 2002
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