Cycling is growing more popular in Utah as a safer, more affordable and greener way to commute through various towns. With this rise in popularity has come renewed interest in understanding the laws as they pertain to cyclists, as well as some proposed changes and updates to the books. It’s even more important now than before to stay on top of the bike laws in Utah, as well as the proposed ones to come, so that you can keep yourself safe and legal. What should you know about the bike laws in Utah?
Bikes and Traffic
Under Utah law, bikes are considered to be vehicles with cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers (save for those which would make no sense for cyclists to have). This affords cyclists some extra protections but may also be used to cover things like riding while under the influence and the importance of traffic signals. However, even this is sometimes overridden by other laws, so it’s important to know the differences.
Bikes can be ridden on sidewalks in Utah, so long as riders yield to pedestrians and give an audible signal when passing. Some municipalities forbid riding on sidewalks in certain parts of the city such as business districts, so it’s important to check your bylaws first. Bikes can also be parked on sidewalks as well, if it hasn’t been forbidden by city law and doing so won’t keeping foot traffic from passing through.
When riding your bike on the road, you must ride in the same direction as traffic and ride as far to the right as possible. The only exceptions to this are as follows:
- When you are passing another bike or another vehicle or if you are preparing to turn left (doesn’t matter where you’re going after turning left)
- If you are going straight through an intersection past a right-turn-only lane
- If you are trying to avoid anything dangerous blocking the right side of the road such as traffic, wildlife, pedestrians, debris, construction, etc.
- If the road is too narrow to ride safely beside other vehicles
Utah doesn’t precisely mandate the use of separate bike paths or lanes even where they are available. But if a traffic control device directs the cyclist to ride on a bike lane, then the cyclist must do so. This is far different from other states where riders are either to always ride in the lane or may choose to, but traffic devices don’t usually play into it.
In 2018, the Utah House passed a bill that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and traffic lights as stop signs. This is a slight modification on the Idaho stop law which allows cyclists to go through a red light if the light doesn’t change after ninety seconds, if traffic permits. Cyclists can also roll through an intersection and not stop at all if it is clear of vehicles and pedestrians. However, cyclists cannot go through a red light on an intersection with more than one lane of travel in each direction. The idea behind this is to keep traffic moving and also prevent the moment of vulnerability that cyclists face when they have to go from a stop at the lights to going forward again. However, only cyclists age sixteen and older can do this. (41-6a-305).
Utah also has safe passing laws and even adds to this with safe driving laws around bicycles. Specifically, motor vehicles may not be operated within three feet of a moving bicycle. The language for this is slightly different than other safe passing laws as it covers passing, but also driving alongside. The reason for this is to keep cyclists safe and ensure vehicles have enough distance to drive safely.
Safety Equipment While Riding
Utah is one of the many states where it is perfectly legal to ride without wearing a helmet, no matter what age the rider is. We don’t endorse the idea since wearing a helmet is the best way to reduce the chance of severe injury or death while riding and in an accident, but legally, you are not required to wear it.
However, Utah is less tolerant of a lack of safety equipment on the bikes. When riding a half hour before sunrise or later than a half-hour after sunset or in any low visibility conditions, the bike must have a white headlight, red taillight or reflector and side reflectors that are visible from at least five hundred feet. Bikes also have to be equipped with brakes that will stop the bike quickly on a dry surface.
Cyclists cannot carry things in such a way that they cannot hold onto the handlebars with both hands. Peace officers in Utah also have the right to make cyclists stop and submit their bikes to be inspected if the officer doesn’t think it’s equipped properly. Considering that reflectors and brakes are pretty low standards, this shouldn’t be a problem!
Utah and Electric Bikes
When compared to many other states, Utah has a lot of information about how electric bikes are to be treated. Primarily, electric bikes are regulated like regular bikes with the same rule of the road applying. E-bikes do not have to be registered, licensed or insured; however, there are three classes of e-bikes to divide between lower speeds (up to twenty miles per hour) and higher speeds (up to twenty-eight miles per hours). Electric bikes are not allowed on sidewalks unlike regular bikes, but they are allowed on bike paths. Helmets must be worn by riders under the age of eighteen.
Utah has become a popular place for cycling and unlike other states which have minimal safety standards and not much else, the state also seems to have stepped up to try to minimize the possible negative interactions between cyclists and vehicles. The Utah yield law is a modification on the Idaho Stop which has given many cyclists some extra flexibility. The fact that cars cannot be operated within three feet of a moving bicycle also narrows down the chances of a collision. However, it’s still important to protect yourself by wearing a helmet, even if it’s not against the law to go without. Taken altogether, Utah is a pretty good place to be a cyclist and it could well be there are changes to the helmet laws coming. In the meantime, enjoy riding in Utah!