Elkhart County Sheriff's Department

Bicycle Laws and Safety

As summer is in full swing, this is a great time to review the rules of the road for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The following information and tips were recently posted in our “Ask the Sheriff” column archive, and originally published by the Goshen News.

The motoring public and bicyclists/pedestrians need to share the roads. Indiana code 9-21-11 contains bicycling regulations which are intended to keep the bicyclist and motoring public safe as they interact. 

Essentially, a person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties applicable to a person who drives a vehicle, except for special regulations noted below and those by their nature which have no application.  This includes obeying all applicable traffic control devices, such as traffic signals and stop signs. 

The bicyclist should always ride on the right side, with traffic, unless on a marked bicycle path.  Keep in mind that most city ordinances restrict bicycle use on a sidewalk, unless otherwise noted as a bicycle path.

Regarding the general operation, a person riding a bicycle upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.  It would seem logical that riding 3-4 abreast may increase visibility, but the law does not allow that. 

There is evidence that riding two abreast is safer than the same bicyclists riding single file.  It takes vehicles a shorter distance to pass the two-abreast bicyclists than it does to pass the same number of single-file bicyclists.  

A bicyclist may not carry any item that prevents them from keeping both hands upon the handlebars nor are they allowed to attach the bicycle to a moving vehicle.

A bicycle may not be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which the bicycle is designed and equipped.  A bicyclist may not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle; or carry any other person upon the bicycle who is not seated upon an attached and regular seat on the bicycle.

As for equipment on the bicycle, a person may not ride a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet.  This is very helpful to give a warning while approaching pedestrians on a path.  Interestingly, a siren or whistle is prohibited.  A bicycle must be equipped with a brake. 

A bicycle operated on a highway from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise should be equipped with a lamp on the front, exhibiting a white light, visible at least five hundred feet to the front.  Also, a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light, or a red reflector, visible at least five hundred feet to the rear is necessary during those times. 

Although not a law, I highly recommend rear-facing lighting during the day and a reflective vest and a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle on the roadway for greater visibility and safety, night or day.

As for pedestrians, it is important to walk on the left side of the roadway, facing traffic.  It’s best to get off the roadway when vehicles are approaching. Glare on a vehicle’s windshield may keep the driver from seeing pedestrians and it’s best to play it safe. Although not a law, it is prudent that parents keep an eye on their small children while walking on the roadway.