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Bike Legal, Bike Safe

Biking to work today in the slush-filled streets, I found myself needing to choose between going further right in my lane, or getting off and walking along the curb on Medary Ave to avoid sliding off-balance. Both options seemed less than ideal, but, worried about possibly doing something illegal, I dragged my bike up on the sidewalk and continued my commute on foot. See, even though I know the bike laws of my hometown, it seems that every city has their own idea of what bicyclists should be doing on public roadways. It’s worth learning those laws, both for your own safety and so you can refer to codes when people lean out of their vehicles to yell that bicycles don’t belong on the roads. (Spoiler alert: they do.)Sluuuuuush...

Here’s the important stuff for the average Brookings cyclist to know:

  1. Road or Sidewalk? Your Choice
    You legally have the right to operate your bike on pedestrian sidewalks and crosswalks, BUT you have to yield to actual pedestrians [32-20B-3], and make a full stop [32-20B-2] before using a crosswalk. You also have the legal right to operate on roadways.
  2. Keep Right
    If you’re going less than the speed of traffic, the law requires you to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb [32-20B-5]. The exception is to get around an obstruction or prepare for a left-hand turn.
  3. Get Lit
    SD law requires every bicycle to be equipped with a front light that is visible from 300 ft away on a clear night. Rear lighting only has to be visible from 200 ft away [32-17-25].

  4. Communicate Turns
    The law requires that cyclists give an indication of intent to turn continuously in the last 100 feet before making a turn. Brush up on your hand signals with this graphic or this video! Alternatively, if you see a car indicating a right-hand turn, common sense and the law agree that you should hang back and let that vehicle make the turn, rather than try to overtake them [ 32-20B-6].
  5. Know YOUR rights
    Cars are required to give you 3 feet of clearance at 35 mph or less. If they’re going over 35 mph, they need to give you 6 feet of clearance [32-26-26.1]. A vehicle almost ran my friend off the road when they could have easily given her the required clearance. In those cases, stay safe, record the incident if you can, and REPORT the license plate to the police.

The neat thing about living in a state where bike use is so uncommon is that some things are still unregulated. Things that ARE legal here: you can bike without a helmet and bike while under the influence. Obviously, neither are ideal, but if you decide it’s the best thing for your situation, no one’s going to stop you!

Want to know more? Click Here for full list of codified bicycle regulation by the South Dakota Legislature.

Ride on, and stay safe!

1 Comment

  1. Joshua Kennedy on August 1, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Good post. I feel safer riding in the street most of the time around here. Some of the sidewalks make it more difficult for cars to see you. Your visibility to cars is much better on the road. I also ride to the right until I’m ready to for a left turn, then hang an arm out an merge into traffic carefully. I also try and match speeds with cars near intersections, and not fart around. Drivers get less mad a bicyclists riding like motorcyclists than like turtles. Riding on sidewalks on Main can be a good way to get an opening building door in the face!

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