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Rules of the Road

The operation of a bicycle in the City of Louisville is governed by several state and local regulations: the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS), the Kentucky Administrative Regulations (KAR) of the Transportation Cabinet, and the Ordinances of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government.  This page will summarize the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists as defined in these regulations, and is not intended as a comprehensive reference guide.  Links to the full-text of the regulations are included on this page; please follow them for complete reference information.

Note: For information about laws pertaining to mopeds, go here and review Chapter 71: Traffic Laws. (Mopeds are covered in section 71.25.)


State Regulations:

The Kentucky Revised Statues (KRS 189.287) give the Transportation Cabinet the right to "promulgate bicycle safety regulations and standards."  These regulations are defined in the Kentucky Administrative Regulations (601 KAR 14:020).  The less obvious regulations are summarized below:

  • You MUST use a front light when riding at night or whenever it is darker than usual (i.e. when it is heavily overcast).  [See KRS 189.030(1) for description of when a light is required.]
  • You MUST use a red rear reflector or light on yourself or your bicycle whenever riding on a highway or shoulder (definitions).
  • At night or when overcast (as described above), you MUST use a steady or flashing red rear light.
  • You MUST shout or sound a bell or horn when approaching a pedestrian or other bicycle.
  • It is illegal to carry more passengers than the bicycle was designed to accommodate.
  • You may not carry a package which prevents you from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.
  • It is illegal to attach yourself or your bicycle to another vehicle.
  • Bicycles shall be operated the same as a motor vehicle EXCEPT for the following:
    • A bicycle MAY be operated on the shoulder of a highway.
    • If a bicycle lane is provided, it MUST be used whenever feasible.
    • Not more than TWO bicycles may ride side-by-side in a single highway lane.

Local Regulations:

KRS 189.287 states that riders and bicycles complying with the 601 KAR 14:020 regulations are exempt from the provisions of KRS 189.040(9), KRS 189.050(1), KRS 189.050(5), and KRS 189.080 (regarding lights and horns).  Such bicycles and riders are also exempt from municipal and other local government regulations concerning safety equipment but not method of operation."  A number of local regulations apply to the operation of bicycles, defined in the local Traffic Code chapter on Bicycles and Motorcycles, TITLE VII, CHAPTER 74.  This ordinance specifies more detailed usage restrictions than do state regulations.  They are summarized here:

  • No person over 11 years old shall operate a bicycle on any sidewalk in Louisville Metro, and nobody of any age shall ride on the sidewalk downtown.
    • This does NOT apply to officers of Louisville Metro Police Department, employees of Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services, Louisville Fire and Rescue, the suburban fire protection districts, Louisville and Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency, nor to Downtown Management District Clean and Safety Team personnel, nor to private security personnel employed by hospitals located within the Downtown Form District, as long as they are acting within the scope of their official duties.
  • Children are allowed to ride as passengers as long as certain conditions are met.
  • No person shall operate a motorized vehicle on a designated bike path or bike lane.
    • Metro Government maintenance vehicles are exempted from this regulation.
  • You MUST wear a helmet if you are under 18 years old and you are riding in any Metro Park.

In all other ways, bicycles are considered "vehicles" by the Kentucky and Local regulations and are subject to all rights and regulations of other vehicles.  These include:

  • You must stop at all stop signs and red lights as must other vehicles.
  • You must pass on the left and make turns from the appropriate lane.
    • However you are encouraged to remain in an on-road bicycle lane even if it means you will pass some stopped traffic on the right.
  • You must signal, using your hands (see the Bicycle Safety page for hand signals), lamps, or mechanical devices.  The signal must be given intermittently for the last fifty feet before the turn.
  • All slow moving vehicles must bear as far right in their lane as is safe and practical, including bicycles. 
    • If there is on-road parking, a particularly narrow street, debris, or other hazards, you are allowed to claim as much of the lane as necessary to ride safely.

As stated in Section 70.03 (C) of the Traffic Code: "Every person riding a bicycle or an animal on any roadway, and every person driving any animal on any roadway, and every person driving any animal-drawn vehicle shall be subject to the provisions of this traffic code applicable to the driver of any vehicle, except those provisions of this traffic code which by their very nature can have no application."

Please click here to view the entire Louisville Metro Traffic Code as it relates to bicycles.

Rules for Motorists Concerning Bicycles

Since motor vehicles and bicycles are both considered "vehicles" under the eyes of the law, there are rules which apply to motorists as well as to bicyclists regarding their behavior on the road.

Motorists MUST:

  • Share the road with bicyclists.
  • Before passing a cyclist:
    • Look to see if there is something in the right lane (debris, parked cars, drainage grates, etc.) that might cause the cyclist to divert their course to the left.
    • Pass only when you can allow at least three feet between yourself (as measured from the extent of your rear-view mirrors) and the cyclist.
    • Return to your lane only when completely clear of the cyclist.
  • If you turn right after passing a cyclist, only do so if you leave enough room that his forward path is not obstructed.
  • When opening your car door, look for cyclists in your rear-view mirror.

The information in the "Rules for Motorists Concerning Bicycles" section comes from the Kentucky Drivers Manual.