Nebraska, in many ways, has not been historically very bike friendly. In fact, Nebraska ranked last in the League of American Bicyclist rankings. The main reason for this is not because Nebraska is particularly unsafe, it’s simply that the other states have been doing more to promote cycling. Unlike many other states, certain things that are taken for granted aren’t found in Nebraska or have only been recently put on the books. This means if you are going to be riding, it’s important to know the bike laws in Nebraska before you go. It’s also important to keep a sharp eye around you while you bike so that you don’t get into trouble with other motorists.
Where are You Allowed to Ride?
Bicycles have the same rights and duties as vehicles, except in cases where it makes more sense to have different laws. Bikes must be ridden as far to the right side of the road as possible except in the following circumstances:
- When passing a vehicle going in the same direction.
- If you’re going to take a left turn onto a driveway, intersection, or private road.
- If the right side of the road is too unsafe to ride in, such as vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, animals, or debris/construction.
- If you’re riding on a shoulder of a highway in the state highway system.
- If you’re on a road that only goes one way and has two or more marked traffic lanes.
- Cyclists aren’t allowed on restricted highways such as interstates and freeways.
For a long time, cyclists were not allowed on the road if there were bike paths or trails built alongside the road; however, that was changed in 2016 with the passage of LB716. Cyclists can now ride on the road or on the bike path as they want. Keep in mind however that if you’re riding on the road, you have to ride single-file, whereas on a bike path, you may be able to ride two abreast or more.
Sidewalk riding is allowed in Nebraska, but it’s important to check with municipal law as some cities may have bylaws that prevent riding on sidewalks or prevent riding on sidewalks in some parts of a city (such as a business district). Some cities even prohibit riding on the sidewalks at all, such as Lincoln. Cyclists who are riding on the sidewalk or a crosswalk have the same rights and duties as pedestrians, but must yield the right of way to pedestrians and warn them if you’re about to pass.
Nebraska does have a safe passing law, specifying that motorists must leave at least three feet of distance between themselves and cyclists while passing. This is done to help keep cyclists safe on the road and help prevent clips or accidents. Nebraska does not have any vulnerable road user laws though, nor any share the road license plates. Nebraska also doesn’t observe the “Idaho Stop” law, meaning that even if the sensor doesn’t pick up the presence of a bike, the cyclist still cannot cross on a red.
Nebraska does not require cyclists to wear a helmet while they ride, regardless of the age of the rider. We would still strongly recommend wearing one as they prevent head injuries in crashes. Also, since local law can provide for their own bylaws and regulations, there may be some cities which do require wearing a helmet, so it’s important to check.
The bike itself must be equipped with several safety features. These include the following:
- Brakes that can stop your bike in twenty-five feet while traveling at 10mp/h under good conditions.
- A red reflector on the rear. Some cities, like the City of Lincoln, requires a red light.
- A light on the front of your bike (color doesn’t matter)
- Side reflectors on the wheels.
- Reflectors on the pedals or shoes while riding at night.
These reflectors must be used while the bike is being ridden at night.
The state patrol of Nebraska also recommends not riding a bike on a rural road at night because cars are often faster and there is less visibility, so it’s easier to get into an accident. There are no laws prohibiting cyclists from riding while using a cell phone, computer, or any other wireless communication device; all of the laws around these things are aimed at motor vehicles. The same goes from cycling while intoxicated; it’s not illegal, but it’s not a great idea to do it as this is dangerous.
Electric Bikes in Nebraska
Nebraska does have some regulations around the operation and use of electric bikes. Electric bikes in Nebraska are defined as a bike which can be propelled both by pedaling and/or by a motor no larger than 750W. It also must have one brake horsepower and a maximum speed of 20mp/h. Nebraska does not require licensing or registration, but riders must wear helmets. They can be ridden on roads, bike lanes and on bike paths.
As you can see, when biking in Nebraska, there really are not too many laws on the books to stop you from doing things. You mostly just have to stay on top of municipal bylaws as Nebraska allows for and encourages local authority to regulate bikes above and beyond state law, even to the point of registration and inspection. It’s important to check the laws before you ride so that you can have a fun and safe time cycling in Nebraska.