An engine, two additional wheels and about 4,000 pounds: Those are only two of the many things that separate bikes from cars. Despite the morphological differences, both modes of transportation are required to adhere to the same laws while on the road—without exception, according to State Highway Patrol Spokesman Mike Baker.
North Carolina traffic law regards both bicycles and cars as vehicles, which means that cyclists are supposed to follow every rule that a car would when on the road.
That can sometimes lead to problems, says Baker. During his 13 years with the State Highway Patrol, the majority of the accidents he has seen involving cyclists have happened at intersections where the cyclists ran a stop sign or stoplight.
"You have your occasional cyclist who is hit from the rear, but most (and the most dangerous) accidents I've seen happened when cyclists blew through stop signs," he says.
According to Scott Naeser, an independent master instructor for the League of American Bicyclists, such accidents are often the product of ignorance on behalf of cyclists. They're avoidable through education.
"Some cyclists aren't aware that they have to adhere to the same laws as cars when they are on the road," Naeser said. "You don't want to do anything that is unexpected for the cars around you."
Having to halt at stop signs isn't the only law that may surprise some cyclists. If they are riding after dusk or in the dark, bikers are required by law to have a front light visible up to 300 feet and a rear light or reflector visible up to 200 feet. Cyclists who are younger than 16 have to wear helmets, and the law also forbids cyclists from riding while intoxicated.
"In general, cyclists fare safer when they ride and act as a vehicle," Naeser says. "Cyclists are operating as motorists. They have a right to the road as well."