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Northern Region Blog

Bicycles on the Road April 15, 2015

Resting along the Richardson Highway

It’s spring, and Fairbanks drivers are starting to share the road with more than just the few hardy year-round cycle commuters willing to brave our -40 winter temperatures. We want to share a few things to keep in mind as they make their appearance.

In almost every instance, bicyclists have a right to be on the road.
13 AAC 02.385. Applicability of regulation to bicycles states in part:

  1. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle as set out in this chapter…

Here’s some of what the Alaska Driver Manual has to say:
MOTORISTS: With the increasing use of bicycles, there is a greater need to exercise care while driving when bicyclists are present to insure their safety. Bicycle riders have no vehicle structure to protect them, and are difficult to see in traffic. Some bicyclists lack skill, and many are too young to have knowledge of all the traffic rules. As a driver, you must be alert and courteous to all bicyclists.

BICYCLISTS: Bicyclists are required to obey traffic signs, signals and all other traffic laws. Always be alert for other traffic.

Alaska Statute 28.15.231 (b) states that no points are assessed for traffic violation when using a bicycle. Bicycles must follow the rules of the road per 13 AAC 02.385.

If I ride my bicycle on the road, should I ride with traffic or against traffic?
Bicycles must ride in the same direction as traffic.

So bicycles can be on the road. Where on the road are they supposed to be?
13 AAC 02.400 Riding bicycles on roadways and bicycle paths says:

  1. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, and shall give way to the right as far as practicable to a motor vehicle proceeding in the same direction when the driver of the motor vehicle gives audible signal.
  2. Persons riding bicycles on a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding bicycles two abreast may not impede traffic and, in a laned roadway, shall ride within the farthest right lane.
  3. When a shoulder of the highway is maintained in good condition, an operator of a bicycle shall use the shoulder of the roadway.
  4. No person may ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in a business district or where prohibited by an official traffic-control device.

What does all that mean? I often see bicycles in the lane and not completely in the road shoulder.
Practically speaking, the majority of bicycle riders on the highway are probably riding as far to the right as is practicable. Gravel and debris on the shoulders that are not necessarily visible to drivers can pose a danger to cyclists. Drivers should take this into consideration, and bicyclists need to exercise vigilance at all times but especially as they encroach closer to the normal wheel paths of vehicles.

What if there’s a separated path on the roadway—aren’t bicyclists required to use that instead?
No. Bicyclists may choose to use a separated path, but they are not required to and there are many reasons bicyclists may choose to not use them. The only exception to this is when bicycles are specifically prohibited from being on the road — they must either use a parallel route, adjacent path facility or an alternate route that doesn’t prohibit bicycles.

What Interior roads are bicyclists prohibited from riding on?
Bicycles are prohibited when the following signs or their variants are present:

no bike signno bike sign Airport Way, the Johansen Expressway, and the Steese Expressway between Airport Way and Trainor Gate are 3 examples of local roads where bicycles are prohibited.


Where can I find more information?
The link below leads to a two-page summary of Alaska Bicycle Laws published by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities:
http://dot.alaska.gov/stwdplng/hwysafety/assets/BikeandSafetyManual/Alaska_Laws.pdf